Border Wall
Credit: iStock

Maybe President Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney is just following the advice of his boss, but the hostage he’s taking is affordable health care for millions of Americans. Just read this and try not to gasp:

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that he hopes to use negotiations to keep the government open past April 28 in an effort to force Democrats to back some funding for creating a new wall along the U. S-Mexico border — a risky move that could provoke a spending showdown with congressional Democrats next week.

Mulvaney said the White House would be open to funding some of the Democrats’ priorities — such as paying insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act — if Democrats agree to fund some of the more controversial parts of President Trump’s agenda, notably the border wall.

Offering to pay for some of the Democrats’ priorities would mean relenting on slashing the Environmental Protection Agency or monies for the humanities and arts. Saying that you’ll follow the law and give subsidies to people to afford health insurance isn’t a real negotiating tactic. It’s “give us the racist wall or we kill all the poor people.” And it’s not even legal.

It’s consistent with Trump’s method of operation, though. Rather than honor a contract, he’ll refuse to pay it until threatened with legal action. Then he’ll countersue and offer a pittance of what he owes as a reasonable compromise. But his form of gangster capitalism isn’t going to fly with the U.S. Congress or with the courts.

Opposition to the wall is bipartisan, and opposition to this particular gambit is near universal.

Republican leaders and members of the House and Senate appropriations committees had hoped to avoid a spending confrontation early in Trump’s administration by negotiating directly with Democrats, whose votes will be necessary to pass any spending bill. Republicans hold a slim 52-to-48 advantage in the Senate, meaning they will need at least eight Democrats to reach the 60 votes required to pass spending measures in that chamber.

Math. How does it work?

Don’t ask the people in the Trump administration because they’re still operating as if magic can overcome arithmetic.

Mulvaney said that the White House is willing to negotiate, but only if Democrats bend on funding the wall.

“If they tell us to pound sand, I think that’s probably a disappointing indicator of where the next four years is going to go,” Mulvaney said. “If they tell us, however, that they recognize that President Trump won an election, and he should get some of his priorities funded for that reason, elections have consequences, as folks who win always like to say.”

If the Democrats wants some advice, I suggest that they can borrow the following Tweet from former Mexican president Vicente Fox:

The Republican leadership and members of the House and Senate appropriations committees can borrow it, too.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at