The 115th Congress appears to have given up, with both the House and Senate failing to reach a deal to end the ongoing government shutdown. This likely punts the showdown over the border wall to the 116th Congress where Trump will face off against a Democratic majority in the House. An agreement won’t be pretty, but it would be a good lesson for Trump and one that could set the stage for a productive two years to come.
With Democrats controlling a majority in the House, any new deal that lands on Trump’s desk will be unlikely to hold the funding Trump has demanded for the wall. Since Trump won’t let government remain shut down for the rest of his term, he will eventually need sign a deal to end the gridlock. This will be seen as a capitulation to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the likely new speaker of the House.
That’s not a good start for the new year. It also doesn’t help Trump convince his base that he is the man to stand up to Democrats and make good on campaign promises ahead of 2020.
In the long term, however, handing an early victory to House Democrats may prove a necessary wake-up call on the reality of divided government.
The early realization that a Democrat-controlled House means more trouble than investigations and subpoenas might galvanize the president to sit down and make deals rather than simply making demands. Additionally, Trump could learn to better value Republican allies in Congress and listen to their advice about what is and is not possible. Indeed, had he followed that advice in the lead up to the holidays, the government would likely still be open with agreement on appropriations one final victory of Republican controlled government.
For conservatives, the president learning the difficult lessons of divided government early on and avoiding two years of gridlock would be an important step to victory in 2020. A track record of disagreement and stalemates, however, will fail to convince all but the staunchest supporters that Republicans and Trump are serious about governing.