The Denver Post is reporting that Senator Cory Gardner (R-Col.) will vote for a clean funding bill that will reopen the federal government “with no border-security funding attached.” Sen. Gardner will be the third Republican senator to break with President Trump over the strategy of shutting down the government.
Through a spokesman, Gardner told the Post that reopening the government is “the right thing to do.”
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) had previously indicated that they would support the clean bill to reopen the government as well. Per The Hill, all three senators plan to vote for the clean bill favored by Democrats but will also vote “yes” on a Trump-backed bill that includes wall funding. Both measures are expected to come before the Senate on Thursday and both are expected to fail.
Separately, Sen. Gardner proposed a bill to pay federal workers during the shutdown. Gardner’s bill would not reopen the government but would appropriate enough money to meet the federal payroll.
“We must reopen the government,” Gardner said in a statement reported by the Colorado Daily Record. “In the interim, our federal workers should not be deprived of their paychecks. My legislation provides peace of mind for our 800,000 government employees who are struggling to make ends meet.”
In recent weeks, Gardner has indicated that he still supports President Trump’s wall project but does not believe that shutdowns are an appropriate way to negotiate for funding. On January 5, the senator told the Colorado Springs Gazette, “This is the same position I have had. I don’t think shutdowns are the right way to govern,” adding that Republicans should reopen the government and then negotiate for border security funding.
Gardner is up for re-election next year in Colorado, a swing state that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by three points. Democrats also picked up a Republican House seat and the governorship of Colorado in the 2018 midterms.
Gardner’s position is likely to find sympathy among many Republicans and independent voters although he is certain to be flogged and branded as a “RINO” on social media. Despite some polls showing an almost equal split on the need for a physical barrier along the border, polling shows that a strong majority of voters blame President Trump for the shutdown. The president’s approval rating has slipped accordingly.
Even though he will draw flak from his own party for breaking ranks, Gardner’s decision is the correct one. The shutdown was almost certainly destined for failure from the beginning. As I explained in December, the only way to pass a bill is to have the required number of votes, in this case, 60 votes in the Senate to end the Democratic filibuster. Despite the popularity of shutdowns among Republicans, shutting down the government does nothing to entice Democrats to vote for the wall or any other Republican priority. Democrats are happy to sit and wait while Trump approval circles the toilet.
Even if the shutdown strategy was a viable way to get funding, it wouldn’t be worth the prolonged shutdown. The wall is not the be-all-end-all solution to illegal immigration and there actually is no border security crisis. We already have more than 600 miles of border security barriers. It was these barriers along with the human presence of the Border Patrol that prevented the migrant caravans from crossing the border from Tijuana last year. In fact, illegal border crossings are near a 50-year low.
Right now, the crisis is with the shutdown itself. Approximately 800,000 federal workers are not being paid and federal agencies are not able to do their jobs. The White House Council of Economic Advisors has warned that economic growth for the first quarter could be negative if the shutdown persists into February and March.
The shutdown is also generating a national security crisis. The FBI warned that the shutdown has crippled anti-terrorism operations. Ironically, the shutdown focused on border security has left the federal employees who actively work to keep those borders secure, the Border Patrol and Coast Guard, unpaid. While it is not immoral to build a border wall, it is immoral to force federal employees, some of whom put their lives on the line, to work without pay.
The other crisis brought on by the shutdown is even worse. There is a crisis of government that exists because neither party is willing to work with the other to get the business of the people done. If President Trump can claim victory in this shutdown then it won’t be the last. Trump will be forced to go back to the well, time and again, and shut down the government over and over in order to secure more funding for the wall (the $5 billion that he requested is only enough for about 200 miles) or whatever else strikes his fancy.
Republicans owe it to the voters and the country to put an end to the shutdown strategy once and for all. I recently laid out the terms of a deal that would fund the wall as well as resolve the immigration crisis. If Republicans want the wall, then the only way to get it is to work with Democrats in a grand bargain on immigration. Neither side seems to want a solution enough to compromise, however.
With public approval of President Trump plummeting, Republican senators are beginning to see the writing on the wall (pun intended). The shutdown is the longest in American history and yet Republicans are further than ever from obtaining funding for the wall. It’s time to try a new strategy and Republicans like Cory Gardner who take a stand to reign in President Trump for the good of their party and the country should be applauded.
Originally published on The Resurgent