After raising fears he would shut down the government over border wall funding, President Donald Trump backed down on Monday night. He did it in Trumpian fashion, telling a group of conservative journalists that the fight for wall funding could wait until September. Nevertheless, Trump's decision to back down was an important moment near the end of his first 100 days.
A week ago, Republicans believed they could beat the government shutdown deadline by making an agreement with Democrats. A resolution would be passed before this Friday and the government would keep running until Oct. 1. But then Trump's advisers began ratcheting up talk that the resolution must include funding for Trump's border wall. That allocation would cost between $21.6 billion and $70 billion, depending on which study you read. Trump was only requesting a fraction of that, $1.4 billion, in this resolution.
The principle of funding a wall between Mexico and the United States, however, was sure to draw uniform Democratic opposition in the Senate. A fight over the funding could have driven the Senate into an impasse that shut down the government — and it's possible Trump would have taken the political blame for the government's closure. "It's good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Democratic minority leader, said Monday night.
Still, the president's reversal on the wall was no guarantee. On the campaign trail, "Build the wall!" was a chant heard thousands of times at Trump rallies. Building the wall — and making Mexico pay for it — was perhaps Trump's signature and most specific policy proposal. Despite the challenges associated with building the wall, Trump and his administration have doubled down on strategies to build the wall. After saying during the campaign that Mexico would pay for it, Trump said after the election that Mexico could reimburse the U.S. for the wall's cost. The first round of bids for the wall was submitted to the government at the beginning of April. U.S. Customs and Border Protection can only build about seven miles of the wall with its current funds, construction that could take more than three years.
What this all means: Trump is not willing to stand for principle at the risk of a major political defeat. The wall, though central to his campaign, may become a promise that goes unfulfilled.
Do you wish Trump had forced legislators to vote up or down on wall funding? Are you surprised he backed off demanding border wall funding? Reply to this email with your thoughts.
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• Today: Donald Trump chose compromise over the border wall.
• More: Trump wants to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. Even Republicans will be difficult to bring along.
• Even more: The second-to-last member of Trump's Cabinet has been confirmed.
• Trump's agenda today: Speaking at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Holding a meeting on tax reform. Signing an executive order to promote American agriculture. Dinner with Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
YUGE corporate tax cut
Don't let your eyes glaze over. This is important.
Trump surprised even his own staff by proposing taxes on corporations be lowered from 35% to 15%. The U.S. has one of the highest tax rates on businesses in the world. But that reduction, along with other Trump-backed tax cuts, would cut $2.4 trillion in revenues from the federal government over the next decade. That would force hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to federal programs. With about 70% of the budget consumed by military or entitlement spending, neither of which Trump wants to touch, this tax cut would lead to cuts to veterans, education, food and transportation programs.
To be clear: This tax reform package has little chance of passage. Republicans cannot pass this with a parliamentary budget trick in the Senate, as it would balloon the federal deficit, so Democratic support would be necessary. But Democrats are extremely unlikely to support the changes. In the House, Speaker Paul Ryan wants a tax plan that is revenue neutral — not one that cuts trillions of dollars in federal revenue.
One cabinet position to go
The Senate confirmed former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture on Monday. The bipartisan vote showed widespread support for the uncontroversial Southerner. Perdue did face ethics concerns during his time as governor, including complaints that Perdue would not step down from four farming-related businesses if he were elected governor. Perdue will preside over a Department of Agriculture that would see deep cuts if the president's budget is implemented. The Georgia farmer has said he will advocate for the rural communities that supported Trump in last year's election.
With Perdue's confirmation, Trump's nominee for labor secretary is the last cabinet official awaiting Senate confirmation.
Another executive order focused on deregulation
With Perdue confirmed, Trump will sign an executive order "Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America." The order, like many before it, charges Perdue with reviewing regulations at the Department of Agriculture and identifying if certain rules can be cut to aid farmers. Trump has said he wants to improve the economic stability of rural communities, areas of the country that voted for him by wide margins.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• The president of Chechnya says he wants to eliminate all gay men in the country by Ramadan at the end of May. (Mic)
• A smart take from Mic's Celeste Katz: "Trump once mocked Obama's executive orders. Now he's citing his own as proof of hard work."
• Politico reports the Obama administration, as part of the nuclear deal with Iran, released Iranians who were threats to U.S. national security. (Politico)
• There are more than two jobs in solar for every one job in coal. (New York Times)
• A new poll found the revised Republican health insurance plan is still deeply unpopular. Voters are not supportive of giving states the ability to take away requirements for what insurers must cover. (Washington Post)