When I taught U.S. History to my sixth graders and we discussed the founding of our country, I’m fairly certain I mentioned to these 12-year-olds that it was a pretty big deal at the time that we decided we would have no king.
We’d have three co-equal branches of government. Legislative to make the laws. Judicial to interpret the laws. Executive to enforce the laws. It was on the final test. All my elementary students passed it. It’s a test the Senate is failing.
Senate leadership under Mitch McConnell would have us re-teach our students that there are actually only two branches of government left. Senator McConnell has announced that he will not allow a vote on something as essential as reopening our government without the approval of Donald Trump.
Let that sink in. The Senate—an independent branch of government whose Constitutional duty is to make laws—has announced that it will stand down and allow Donald Trump to continue to cause national suffering as a way to pressure lawmakers to give him the “win” on a wall that he cannot earn by argument or negotiation. Donald Trump has been given the keys to the U.S. Senate.
He is prolonging this crisis as leverage over members of Congress who are convinced that his wall was never anything more than an irresponsible campaign rally chant; that he never had a plan to keep his promise that Mexico would happily pay for it; and that there is no rational argument to spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on something that does not address the complex issues of immigration. That Donald Trump has no scruples in what he is doing to federal workers and the important services they provide to the public surprises no one.
But the Senate leadership is something else. The votes are there to pass the legislation that will open the government. The Senate passed it once (blindsided by Donald Trump who rejected it after he’d agreed to support it). The House passed it. Senator McConnell is most likely correct that Donald Trump will not sign it.
But any one of my sixth graders could tell you what happens next. Congress was designed to be a check on a president who thought he’d been elected king. Congress can override a presidential veto.
It’s time to recognize that Trump is incapable of solving the problem he created. He lost the fight to convince lawmakers to support the billions of dollars he needs to brag to his rallies that he bent Congress to his will. He does not understand good-faith negotiations. Donald Trump is the cause of this shutdown catastrophe. He is not capable of and perhaps has no interest in ending it.
We must look to the Senate now. The Senate must do its job, pass the legislation that will open our government and be prepared to override Trump’s veto. We have no king, Senator McConnell. Take back the keys you gave Donald Trump. Do not put him in charge of our Senate. Congress has the power and the responsibility to act. Do it now.
We must all make our voices heard and tell Congress to reopen the federal government.