Opinion Pieces

Columbian: Local View: Get federal government working again

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Vancouver, January 6, 2019 | comments
Entering the third week of a federal government shutdown, it’s easy to see why Americans are disgusted with politicians. The president and Democratic congressional leaders are in a standoff over a border wall, so they’re shutting down national parks, withholding paychecks for the Coast Guard, and screwing up people’s home loans.
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Entering the third week of a federal government shutdown, it’s easy to see why Americans are disgusted with politicians. The president and Democratic congressional leaders are in a standoff over a border wall, so they’re shutting down national parks, withholding paychecks for the Coast Guard, and screwing up people’s home loans.

To everyone not infected by partisan politics, the situation is ludicrous. There’s a solution at hand, if politicians grow up, stop worrying about which side is “winning” the political fight (spoiler alert: they’re both losing), and deliver results.

Congressional Democrats and others who oppose a border wall have pushed to treat fairly the estimated 1.8 million non-legal residents (“Dreamers”) who were brought to the U.S. as children. These Dreamers have spent virtually their entire lives here, know no other country as their own, yet remain in legal limbo while Congress dithers. Last year, then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi set the record for the longest speech in U.S. House history on the need to provide a solution for Dreamers. She was right.

Meanwhile, supporters of a wall cite the pressing need for more security on our borders. They’re right, too. There is nothing outrageous about wanting to know who is coming and going through our borders and, like every other sovereign nation, deciding who is eligible to enter. Ninety percent of the heroin that’s responsible for killing 300 Americans a week comes across the southern border. Strengthening the physical border would significantly contribute toward preventing that scourge. And if we want to keep from creating another round of Dreamers living in the legal shadows, we have to secure the entry points into the United States.

So, both sides have something they want. Why not give it to them? The president has demanded $5 billion to construct a physical barrier. While I will never call $5 billion a small amount of money, in the context of a $4.4 trillion federal budget it doesn’t seem like a deal-breaker. Until recently, strengthening the borders was something both parties regularly supported without controversy. If calling it money for “the wall” is too much to swallow, call it “enhanced border security.” But let’s do it, take it off the table, and move on. 

As for Dreamers, it was President Trump who showed an openness to treating them fairly in January 2018. Many Republicans, including me, have supported serious proposals to provide Dreamers with legal residency. So let’s get it done.

But both sides appear to be digging in their heels. A news story from Day 14 of the shutdown reported that leaders from both parties would reject a deal that had anything to do with either Dreamers or a wall. Well, when extreme elements from both sides oppose a solution, that’s often an indicator that it’s the right one.

I didn’t come to Congress to play partisan games. Let’s bring it to an end. All it will take is a step out of their ideological corners toward solutions that both parties have supported in the past. If we follow this path, we’ll have actually fixed some problems along the way.

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