The Fix's Ask Aaron: The week in politics

Jan 11, 2019

The Fix's senior reporter Aaron Blake chats with readers in his weekly politics chat series.

It's Friday. It's noon (okay, 12:04, sorry!). Let's do it.

Will this shutdown have long term political consequences for either side or will it be forgotten in 2020?

I tend to think it gets forgotten -- and I think that's why the GOP is more willing to gamble -- but the longer it goes on, the more it could linger.

Don't forget: The GOP paid a short-term political price for the "defund Obamacare" shutdown in 2013, which most people blamed on them. The next year, they won huge.

My friends says A.O.C. is fearless in her tweets while I think she can't ever seem to rise above it. My other friends says Trump's not a typical politician while I think he's not a reasonable politician.

It's almost like we all perceive things through our own lenses and base them upon our own personal affinities!

hey Aaron, I'm interested to know why the media is not fixated on the cost to American taxpayers for this shutdown. Doing some quick math: (800,000 federal employees) x ($3,000 per employee average payroll paycheck: best guess) = $2.4 Billion. So, when the dust clears and they all go back to work and get retroactive pay for doing nothing (albeit not of their choice) it will cost taxpayers $2.4+ Billion for just the lost payroll---- with nothing of any value in return for this lost labor product. If they’re out twice that long it would equal $5 Billion… and so on…. How is this not perceived as bleeding away money? Instead of a running clock showing the amount of time elapsed for the shutdown, all news organizations and web sites should show a running dollar $$$ amount elapsed for the throw-away/lost/pissed-away taxpayer money with no work product or anything of value in return to show for it.

Stay tuned! I tweeted about this yesterday and may do a longer piece on it.

Basically, the 2013 shutdown cost an estimated $2 billion in lost productivity, because all the workers got back pay. They'll get back pay again this time, and the shutdown is longer, so we're probably creeping up on the last 2 shutdowns costing more money than Trump is asking for the wall ($5 billion).

At what point to GOP senators call on McConnell to hold a vote?

This is the most logical breaking point. These senators didn't ask for this fight -- in fact, they were ready to just move on with a clean government-funding bill.

At some point, they'll worry about this damaging themselves, and that's when they either tell Trump to fold or they pass something with veto-proof majorities. Or at least that's the theory of how it would go down.

When Trump and the GOP keep saying that the shutdown could last weeks or months, do they really think everyone will keep working that long without pay? Has anyone given any thought to the possibility that the "essential" workers might shut down the government for real?

Now that those employees know they'll get back pay, I think they'll be more likely to stick around.

That's not to downplay the significance of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck having to wait till the shutdown is over, but leaving their jobs would be leaving money on the table.

To anybody who tells this or that candidate is too bland, a president of the United States who will let me forget about him or her for at least day or two would be nice.

Sounds like Hickenlooper's your man.

So they are really thinking about taking funds away from rebuilding Houston & Puerto Rico to fund a wall??

If this is the best option they have, they don't have many good options. I'm trying to think of a worse piggy bank to draw upon. Maybe taking funding away from education? Or veterans?

Can we just call a spade a spade and admit the reason Lindsey Graham is buddy-buddy with Trump is that Graham is deathly afraid of losing a primary challenge for his Senate seat in 2020? Shouldn't that motivation color all of the coverage of Graham's public statements and positioning?

I'm sure that plays a huge part of it. But he's also split with Trump on Syria and Khashoggi. He seems to think buddying up on most everything gives him the clout to guide Trump when he thinks it's important. (That said, it doesn't seem to have worked on Syria and Khashoggi.)

Can you explain the difference, or if there is a difference, between the terms "the White House", the President and "the administration" as used by the press?

I'll take a crack -- in order of size.

The president is the president.

The White House is all his in-house advisers, including chief of staff, national security adviser, press secretary, etc.

The administration covers the entirety of the federal government -- so all Cabinet officials and their departments (State, Defense, Justice, etc.). These people don't work in the White House but in their departments.

Yes, but in between (and closer to the election) was the troublesome Obamacare rollout.

Indeed! Lots can (and will) happen between now and November 2020. The longer the period of time, the more that can overshadow the shutdown.

If there were no Twitter, who'd be President now? Beginning to wish social media had not been invented........

Jeb Bush.

A.O.C. will face a primary in two years. She will get little accomplished, and her fans forget that she won with super low turnout.

I think she's insulating herself from a primary. This feels like wishful thinking!

So I read a tweet by a colleague of yours mocking the idea of Trump reaching out to Democrats since it won't matter to his base. It matters to me. Is he any less my President?

One idea I haven't written but might is that we've become so polarized that the details of these shutdown fights matter less and less -- and both sides have less incentive to cave. If there aren't persuade-ables in the middle, and you KNOW you'll have 40-45% on your side, why not just draw it out?

as one of the unhappy residents of his district (IA 04), I hope the early interest in primary opponents means he's on his way to the scrap heap of history.

He's got a very high-profile opponent. Something tells me he'll have to lose to a Republican or have his district redrawn to be less safe. Otherwise he probably survives?

Does he run for re-election?

I'd say more likely than not? But I don't have a good read on it.

Decision is due this summer: LINK

for the media to just say that the President is/was lying? The use of Pinocchio is clever, but the torrent of untruths he issues regularly needs to be called out in plain language.

Here's what I've said about this:


Please, let's not go giving Mitch Daniels false hope.

Oh man. Mitch Daniels was so bland that I literally forgot about him! Maybe he and Hick can do a unity ticket.

So I saw Steve Kornacki promoting his book talking about Gingrich's shutdown and I'm wondering, has a shutdown over a specific issue ever worked?

Not to my knowledge, because when you're trying to get something EXTRA out of the negotiations, it's usually clear who has forced it.

The GOP knew "defund Obamacare" wouldn't work, but they basically decided to humor Cruz et. al. for a couple weeks to give the base a sense that they were fighting -- and avoid an internal rift.

Who is more likely to be the next Speaker of the House, Ben Ray Lujan or Hakeem Jeffries?

I would say Jeffries, but I'm not basing that on much besides second-hand impressions.

Has his toadying act gained him any influence aside from playing Trump's caddie? Nothing comes to mind.

If the Syria withdrawal is significantly slower than initially thought, you could make an argument he had some impact.

That said, we have no idea what the withdrawal plan is (which I discuss in a piece that is going up shortly!).

Update: Here's the piece.

Guiliani just told the Hill that the White House should have the opportunity to "correct" Mueller's report before it is released to the public. "They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong." Why does this guy still have a job?

Hmmm I'd like to see the context, but this seems bonkers.

Sound to me like maybe he's stretching the Overton window for things Barr et. al. could eventually do -- kind of like how Trump talked so much about firing Sessions that when he did it it was less shocking.

So do WaPo use "new NAFTA" or "NAFTA" or do you use the acronym the President came up with and is pushing?

I believe we have been using USMCA, since that is the technical name and it is a new trade deal. The Canadians, though, prefer to think of it as just updated NAFTA.

Iowa is already one of the least-gerrymandered states in the nation, so I doubt much redistricting will be done to disfavor King. SEE: LINK

Correct. It would only be on the margins, given Iowa produces pretty logical districts. But populations shift, and a few points here or there could be the difference. having far too much fun as President of Purdue University to ever take the step down into the White House.

Oh man I feel like I know who submitted this comment.

Thanks, I always learn something new from your chat.

For those unaware, the Overton window is basically the range of opinions that are considered within the mainstream. Sometimes someone will introduce a more extreme idea to make something else seem less extreme (which is what I was suggesting Giuliani might be doing).

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) even pretty much admitted recently that single-payer health care is a good way for Democrats to move the Overton window toward them on health care -- even if they know they can't pass it.

The north wall can't get here soon enough.

41 people flagged by the terror watchlist in 6 months -- more than 6 times as many as the Southern border, per NBC News.


Is it really? I mean there's a difference between knocking down a building and building a new one or just slight reno and a new name above door, no?

It has to jump through all the hoops that a new deal would, so technically, it's a new deal (even as it's very similar to the old one).

With enough votes, could a presidential veto of the budget/continuing resolution be overridden? So if enough congress people agree, does it matter that the president might refuse to sign?

Of course it could. Two-thirds majorities in both chambers. The Senate passed a clean bill in December by voice vote, and the House passed one recently -- albeit well shy of two-thirds, because the GOP is sticking together (for now).

But if they tied of this strategy and just want to reopen the government, it's hardly inconceivable.

If she wasn't from Boise or Bangor, would she get as much attention? All the major media markets also cover something in New York way, way more (just compare snow storm or heatwave coverage in NYC to anywhere else).

Part of the reason AOC gets more attention is undoubtedly because she's in NYC. But it's also because she beat a member of Democratic leadership in a primary, and she's very young for a member of Congress, and she's very PR savvy.

how do you see this ending? will we ever see his report?

I think I saw Neal Katayal say last night that he believed we would definitely see the report. I tend to think it's 80-85% assured. Not sure how you bury it.

This seems to be part of the Trump modus operandi.

There is no question this is strategic.

Will she waver? She is from a border state?

She already said she's not really on board -- and said she doesn't support a national emergency declaration.

So let's play out the scenario that Congress passes a clean, wall-free bill to reopen gov't, and Trump vetoes it. I get that it will probably be veto-proof in the Senate (i.e. will pass with >67 votes). What about in the House? Last I read, there are ~12 GOP members voting with the majority to re-open the gov't. Will/would there be enough in a week (or more...) to override a Trump veto in that chamber too? I actually think the veto override is better long term for his "brand", since it reinforces that he is not a "typical politician", he can maintain that he never capitulated, and he can continue the fight going forward. (I say this as someone who loathes him, BTW.)

I believe between 8 and 12 Republicans have voted with Democrats on these bills they're passing. That translates to about 56 percent of all House members -- nowhere near enough.

But that could change if vulnerable Republicans start to worry about their reelection bids. They're staying united for now, but it's possible lots of them are being team players because they know this would fall apart the moment dozens of Republicans abandon Trump.

Good luck building it down the middle of Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls!

Congratulations. The wall just got 10 feet higher -- and the one we're building through the middle of Lake Superior just became a double-wall.

Why didn't Trump demand the wall when his party controlled both houses of Congress and they could have given it to him if all Republicans voted for it?

He threatened to -- multiple times! But they kept talking him out of it before they actually shut down the government.

I bet you are afraid to chat an extra hour today. I dare you.

Such hostility.

Your best bet on what today's Friday afternoon surprise from the White House will be?

More posturing?

Marco Rubio. Jeb's time had passed him by in 2016.

I take it back. Romney would have been in his second term.

Why is McConnell so resistant to simply letting his members pass a clean CR to re- start the government with an agreement that "border security" would be taken up in a wider discussion? (For that matter, why didn't they fund the wall in the two years that they controlled both sections of Congress?)

Because he knows there is no leverage left at that point for the wall. I don't think he cares that much about it, to be honest, but if he's playing ball with Trump, and Trump knows this is his leverage, he can't pretend otherwise.

. . . why the Democrats just don't say, very simply, go ahead Mr. President build your wall. Get the money from Mexico, like you said who would pay for it and build it. It's what you promised so have at it . . . with Mexico's money, not ours.

They have been saying that, kind of?

I think the calculus changes when it's blatantly a choice by Trump (really, I saw it on TV) and for a cause not supported by most Americans.

Bingo. Like "defund Obamacare," this was always a fight in which most would blame the GOP. But Trump doesn't really care if the country is 57-43 against him.

If Trump is impeached, what are the chances that 20 GOP Senators vote to convict, to avoid having him as a millstone around their necks in 2020?

It would need a smoking gun from Mueller -- something that almost nobody could logically dispute.

Thanks everyone. We'll see you next Friday at noon.


In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is a senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron lives with his family and trusty dog, Mauer, in Northern Virginia.
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