Shutdown showdown: Territorial peeing contest continues in DC


As we mark one month of longest government shutdown in American history, a resolution seems further away than ever before. The shutdown, which has perpetuated due to an impasse between President Trump and Democrats in Congress over funding for the proposed border wall, has now been reduced to a “tit for tat” retaliation game between our leaders.

On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Trump asking him to delay the State of the Union address or to submit the address in writing to Congress, citing security concerns related to the ongoing shutdown. The security concerns that Speaker Pelosi cited have since been discredited by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

To be clear, the State of the Union address is a pillar of our democracy, a symbol of American strength, and under no circumstances should such a momentous national tradition be compromised over petty politics. Indeed, the action taken by Speaker Pelosi represents little more than a partisan power play at a time when unity is so desperately needed. By attempting to block the State of the Union address, she is very much overplaying her hand to the detriment of the nation as well as to herself.

However, while her letter was a step in the wrong direction, retaliatory action taken by President Trump was just as distasteful and arguably rose to the level of being juvenile. On Thursday, in response to the letter, President Trump denied her a military plane for her trip to Belgium and Afghanistan, where she was going to visit our troops in a combat zone.

“We will reschedule this seven day excursion when the shutdown is over,” President Trump wrote, snidely adding, “Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.” Canceling the trip to simply to one up her is regrettable.

Regardless of party, the president of the United States should not deny a leader of Congress the opportunity to go on a fact finding mission that involves high level meetings with our closest allies and commanders, as well as with our own troops serving in active war zone in Afghanistan.

Republicans in Congress, even those who support President Trump on a number of issues, spoke out against his retaliation. “One sophomoric response does not deserve another,” remarked Senator Lindsey Graham.

The fact that it is constitutionally within the power of Speaker Pelosi to invite or disinvite President Trump from giving the State of the Union address to Congress, just as it is within the power of President Trump to ground a military plane, does not make either these actions right or just.

Both were motivated by pettiness and partisanship. Both acted in a way that represents the worst side of politics. Put simply, this has gone too far. In this war, neither side is winning, and those losing are the American people, specifically the 800,000 furloughed federal government workers not getting paid due to the inability of our leaders to end the shutdown.

Indeed, the concern over immigration is legitimate. It is clear that there are issues on both sides that need to be addressed properly over time. On Saturday, President Trump offered temporary protection for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants in exchange for funding for the border wall, but Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats dismissed the proposal.

For now, President Trump and Democrats in Congress must compromise for an agreement to reopen the government. Until they do so, both sides will continue to look foolish, while polarization and division will continue to deepen. Our leaders were elected to serve the American people and must represent the best of our nation. It is time they start acting like it.

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