Why Speaker Pelosi and President Trump aren't making a deal

Now that Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House, her party and President Trump seem to be getting down to the business of not making a deal to end the government shutdown.

For the moment, at least, both sides would rather have the issue.

Some Republicans have told me privately that they have explored possible avenues of compromise with Democratic colleagues and made little progress. It may well be that Pelosi and company, confident that the president has helped them brand this as the Trump Shutdown, would rather let the thing drag on and inflict more pain. But Republicans too, boxed in by Trump's hard-line stance, are resisting certain avenues of compromise.


Pelosi's side is pushing a plan to fund the other six federal departments that aren't involved in the immigration controversy, which has a common-sense ring. But Republicans have told them that would obliterate their leverage, which is true. Media reports say Trump told Chuck Schumer he'd look "foolish" buying into such a plan. So the paralysis continues.

Look at it this way: The government can't remain partially closed forever. In a week, two weeks, three weeks, there will be a papered-over compromise that will allow both sides to claim a measure of victory.

So why can't that happen right now?

The answer is that this has become a grudge match — and not really about the dollars involved — in which neither side is ready to give an inch.

Trump wanted more than $5 billion for a border wall, the Dems offered $1.3 billion, and Republicans countered with $2.5 billion (although Trump hasn't embraced that number). Democrats haven't budged. Republicans want any figure that begins with a 2, which underscores how slim the differences are.

But the impasse is hardly painless, given that national parks and museums have shut down. And 800,000 federal workers, some of them living paycheck to paycheck, are not being paid and worried about paying the rent, the mortgage or ordinary living expenses.

In fact, some Republicans say privately that pressure will grow on both sides after next Monday, when government workers are scheduled to miss another paycheck.

Pelosi was hardly sending out an olive branch in a Washington Post interview, saying she respects the office of the presidency but not the occupant's lack of "shared values about our country."

"We have to stipulate to a set of facts if we're going to ever negotiate," she said. "But he simply won't do it. What he talks about with the wall isn't true. It isn't true about terrorists coming over the wall, people with illnesses flooding the country. I mean, really?"

The president, who has whacked a long list of political and media opponents, hasn't really slammed Pelosi. "I like her. Can you believe it? I like Nancy Pelosi," he said after the Democrats won the House. "I mean, she's tough and she's smart," he said after the midterm elections.

The Federalist has a smart take: "If President Trump wants to end the government shutdown and get Congress to approve funding for his border wall, there’s a way to do it — if he's willing to compromise with Democrats. Likewise, if Democrats want to end the shutdown and address the humanitarian crisis at the border, they could do that — if they were willing to compromise with Trump."

But they won't, "because the fight over the border wall isn't really about addressing conditions on the border. It's about domestic politics and virtue signaling to each side's respective base."

In addressing the House chamber yesterday, Pelosi said that "we should serve with our heart full of love" and that Americans "want a Congress that delivers results for the people." She got a cheer for saying her party would be “offering legislation to reopen government today" — which she pushed through last night.

And yet she was talking to lawmakers who haven't managed to keep the government running. And that situation won't change until both sides decide that the time for political posturing is over.