Can Democrats Negotiate An End To The 2019 Government Shutdown In Face Of Chaotic History?

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I had just finished responding to a comment in a prior post as to the history of how we got here, in January 2019 with the longest running US government shutdown in US history with no end in sight, where 800,000 government workers have been made suffer because they have to forgo their paychecks or have them delayed. Inevitably this hurt ripples out to their families, the business owners who cater to this population and the American peoples who count on their services.

It’s worth a review of this history. In the end, I argue that despite the president not having a history of acting in good faith, the Democratic Party leaders must try because the main goal has to be to end this shutdown that’s harming so many Americans versus giving the republican President Donald Trump, the black eye that he so richly deserves.

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Historical Analysis

Dealing with President Trump can be an exercise designed to frustrate the most skilled negotiators, but unfortunately, he’s the only game in town as the US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to date, to let the senators vote on any bill to end this 2019 government shutdown. Where the senators to vote, the shutdown would end immediately with probably enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Nine republican US senators have crafted a law to end the possibility of future shutdowns which is a signal that there are republican as well as democratic senators who want to end this shutdown.

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The history of this president wanting to force a government shutdown over inadequate funding for his wall is telling.

In 2017, 2018 there were Republican Party majorities in both houses of the US Congress where 3 out of 4 Republican Party members discounted the efficacy of wall at the US southern border. This is why they had never voted for a budget more than $1.6 billion dollars for the president’s wall.

In Feb 2018, President Trump’s administration’s own budget was published for the fiscal year of 2019 where on pg 57, the amount of $1.6 billion is allotted for the president’s border wall.

On Dec. 18. 2019, US senators with the president’s prior approval, passed a funding bill which included this $1.6 billion before he decided to throw a hissy fit to gum up the works.

Based on some negative feedback from right wing media pundits, he decided to demand $5.7 billion dollars before he would agree to sign onto this budget for 2019. He wanted to cater to the anti-immigration hard-liners’ faction of his base. While they are a minority of the US population, they are a significant portion of the Republican Party’s base of voters.

President Trump had wanted his shutdown in 2017. In 2018 he got a 3 day shutdown where the Democratic Party lawmakers were pushing for a way to bar the deportation of about 700,000 plus young adults who had come to the USA with undocumented parents to where they knew no other country.


The former Democratic President Barack Obama had issued an order termed DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals), to block their deportation. President Trump had backed out on working with democrats on a law called the Dream Act, to permanently protect these young peoples from being deported. The Democratic Party lawmakers agreed to end the 3-day January 2018 weekend shutdown with the promise by republicans to continue serious negotiations regarding these young adults which went nowhere. Fortunately, the US courts stepped in to bar President Trump from being able to deport them, at least temporarily.

But in January 2019 President Trump finally got his record breaking government shutdown, surpassing the US past record of 21 days with no end in eight. That he’s been wanting a shutdown over his wall being inadequately funded by US Congress in 2017, 2018 , when Republican Party legislators were in the majority position in both houses of the US Congress, is NO SECRET. But he had been talked out of it, as he was told that it would be republicans who would be blamed by the American voters. Even then, the Republican Party Congressional members had never budgeted for more than $1.6 billion dollars for his wall.


But it looks like President Trump had miscalculated on how he could shift the blame for his government shutdown to the democrats who were now in the majority position in the the US House of Representatives), as of January 2019. His plan was to demand $5.7 billion for his wall that even his own party members would not agree to do, in 2017 and 2018, when they were in the majority beyond the amount of $1.6 billion dollars.

To add salt to injury, President Trump’s point man on this government shutdown, his Chief-of-Staff Mick Mulvaney is one of those small government zealots who’s not opposed to this shutdown lasting as long as possible because that could lead to the development of  smaller government. In addition, he had been one of the lawmakers who had pushed hard for the 16 day government shutdown in 2013.

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All of this brouhaha over the wall is based on the president falsely alleging that there is a US national security crisis at the US SW border where criminals, jihadists are crossing the US Southern border in huge numbers which justifies his demand for additional funds to build about 200 miles of a wall, which falls short of the 700 plus miles that he’s been describing to his supporters, where Mexico would be footing the bill.

Now, it’s true that there is now a humanitarian crisis at the border because of the president’s own policies like his plan to deter future migrants from Central American countries from seeking US asylum by separating children from their refugee families who were legally seeking asylum, as they crossed the US-Mexico border.

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This is the history of what the Democratic Party leaders have to face while trying to act / negotiate to end this government shutdown asap, as it is harming so many Americans, while keeping in mind, that their giving into the president’s unreasonable demands would make the US federal government employees vulnerable to government shutdowns, over and over again, every time President Trump decided to throw another hissy fit.

But try, they must as the goal must be to end the hurt being felt by so many public servants who are being deprived of their paychecks or having them delayed versus the the need to give President Trump a black eye, no matter how much he deserves it.


Here’s the rest of the story…

Around  January 11, 2019, Inc. published the following report by Jessica Stillman, “Business School Professor: Trump’s Shutdown Is A master Class In How Not To Negotiate” (“Can someone please tell the president to stop focusing on positions and move on to discussing interests?”)


“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you can probably agree that the current 20-day (plus) government shutdown is covering no one in Washington in glory. Parks are filling up with garbage, airport security personnel are walking off the job, and air traffic controllers are posting their $0 pay stubs to Twitter.  President, Trump is clearly taking a fair chunk of the blame.”

“Someone needs to gently explain to the president that, going forward, he might want to adjust his negotiating strategy,” the New York Times editorial board suggested this morning.”

“The man for the job just might be Northeastern University management professor Parker Ellen. The negotiation expert took to The Conversation recently to explain just where Trump has gone wrong and what he (and other leaders who actually want to master the art of the deal) should learn from the current impasse.”

Forget positions and focus on interests.

“Explaining the crux of the president’s disagreement with the Democrats is dead simple. He wants billions of dollars for a border wall. The Democrats told him no way. These two stances are what negotiation experts terms “positions.” It’s natural for two parties in a negotiation to have initial positions, but where the president has gone wrong is in failing to move on to a subtler and more productive conversation about interests.”

“When parties to a negotiation focus on positions, they often reach an impasse. Why? Because there really is only one way to satisfy a position — you either get what you asked for or you don’t,” Ellen sensibly points out.”

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“Positions are the initial demands or starting points from which both sides typically need to move for an agreement to be reached. Interests, on the other hand, are the underlying motives for positions — the reasons people make demands in the first place,” he explains.

“While a single-minded focus on positions leads to a zero-sum negotiation (i.e. the ‘I win. You lose’ negotiating style Trump prefers), working from the basis of interests, which tend to be more flexible and compatible, allows for the possibility of a win-win negotiation. What could that look like in the case of the current impasse over the wall?”

“The language used in their recent primetime addresses hints at the interests of both sides. Trump seemed to focus on preventing drugs and criminals from crossing the border. (In addition, I see it as he needs to save face in front of  his base regarding him keeping his promise for a wall.) The Democrats’ response suggested they are primarily interested in the humane treatment and safe passage for people who want, and perhaps even need, to enter the United States,” writes Ellen.”( I argue that it is also to end this specific shutdown and to stop GOP resorting to future government shutdowns as a political weapon.)

Esther Anastasia holds a sign during a protest rally with government workers and their supporters in Boston, Friday, Jan.11, 2019. The workers rallied with Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and other supporters to

“When people negotiate over interests, they look beneath positions and seek to satisfy needs, which is the real reason we should negotiate,” he adds.”

Solid advice for all leaders

“Ellen ends his piece with a plea for our leaders to stop being pigheaded and look beyond positions to interests. “Although the current political climate clearly amplifies both sides’ competitive approach and hinders a shift from positions to interests, that is the most productive path to an agreement,” he concludes. “To end the shutdown, both sides should find a way to make that shift.”

“It’s sensible advice for politicians, but also for any other leader looking to strike a lasting and beneficial deal as well.” 


  1. The Democrats can seize the moral high ground by making a move to spare the hardship forced onto govt workers.
    Then later on they can play every dirty trick in the book to foil Trump and his damn wall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Roger,

      That’s my thinking. I’d agree to give the president what he wants just to end the shutdown. I suspect that the GOP in the US Congress would not be able to successfully pass the president’s Bridge Act out of both houses of Congress to be signed by him. But my agreeing to any additional funding for his wall would be predicated on the passage of the Bridge Act.

      The DACA Dreamers and others have already been given a reprieve from deportation by the US courts but it would be better if there was a more permanent fix.

      The key to any solution would be for the president to end the shutdown asap. Those hurting American government workers can’t wait forever for all sides to figure things out to the satisfaction of all parties..

      Hugs, Gronda

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Keith,

      It looks like Speaker Pelosi is crafting what could be considered a counter proposal. My worry is that the Dems wanting to give him a black eye that he so richly deserves, will not give the ending of the gov shutdown, the top billing.

      No, he and his cronies don’t give a hoot about the pain they are causing others.

      Hugs, Gronda


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