It's depressing — but, at the same time, fitting — that the new Congress has come to town in the midst of another government shutdown. For the moment, President Donald Trump sees tactical advantage in extending his dispute with Congress over funding his "wall." Most of the country would be grateful if he and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives came to terms and let the government get back to doing its job.
A deal of the kind recently floated by Sen. Lindsey Graham ought to be possible: Allow the administration additional funding for border security while extending protections for so-called Dreamers (young people brought illegally to the U.S. as children) as well as for several hundred thousand holders of temporary protected status. This would afford both sides a partial win.
A similar package has been proposed before, but neither side wanted it enough to settle. Trump has vacillated over the idea, one minute seeming inclined to go along and the next insisting on new restrictions on legal immigration. For their part, Democrats have been (rightly) reluctant to let the White House waste money on a wall that serves no purpose except to flatter the president's vanity, and (rightly) concerned that detaching the fate of "Dreamers" from broader immigration policy would make further reform more difficult.
Right now, though, each side mostly wants to deny the other anything that might be portrayed as a victory. Problem is compromise requires that both sides get something. And the only alternative to compromise, now that power in Washington is more equally divided, is paralysis.
The costs of the shutdown might seem modest to begin with, but they will quickly mount. A government that is incapable of governing will undermine economic confidence, which is already fragile, and further erode trust in U.S. political institutions.
Washington should strike a deal on "Dreamers" and border security. If Trump calls it a win, fine. Voters won't be fooled, and $5 billion or so for a wall that doesn't work and isn't even a wall would be a price worth paying for securing the future of "Dreamers" and letting the government at least turn up for work.
REPRINTED FROM THE NEW BERN SUN JOURNAL