Opinion writer

At least President Trump acknowledged he’s the reason for the shutdown. Well, sort of. The Post reports:

President Trump told congressional leaders Friday that he would keep the federal government closed for “months or even years” amid a dispute over border wall funding, as the White House scrambled to unify the GOP behind Trump while some Republicans are showing impatience with the now two-week old shutdown.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that during a contentious and nearly two-hour meeting inside the White House situation room, Democrats told Trump: “We needed the government open.”

“He resisted,” Schumer said. “In fact, he said he’d keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.”

In a Q & A with the media in the Rose Garden, Trump was asked if he could declare a “national emergency” to order the wall built. He replied: “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.” It’s far from clear whether he could constitutionally do this, but if he thinks he can, why not reopen the government? (This, by the way, is precisely the sort of flimsy fig leaf he may need to end the shutdown before his entire party revolts.)

This cavalier attitude toward governing, the hardship of 800,000 federal workers and the opinion of the American people (who overwhelmingly disfavor the wall and the shutdown) suggests that the president is on a political suicide mission, one that makes reelection of Republicans to Congress and the retention of the White House in 2020 even more difficult.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is making matters worse by refusing to do his job (e.g., put the House bills on the floor or offer one of his own). His aide Josh Holmes unintentionally made clear that McConnell’s priority is partisan unity, not the country. (“Holmes, a McConnell adviser, said he saw his main role as keeping the caucus together.”) Perhaps another Republican in his position or a Democratic majority in the Senate would recognize that the Senate’s job is to do the work of the American people, not the bidding of an increasingly irrational president.

Speaking from the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) turned the knife. “Leader McConnell has shown himself to be an adept negotiator during previous shutdowns," he said. "Why is he abdicating his responsibility now? Why is Leader McConnell shuffling off to the sidelines, pointing his figures at everyone else and saying he won’t be involved?” He answered his own questions: “Probably because he realizes this president, President Trump, is erratic, unreliable and sometimes even irrational. In sum, President Trump is a terrible negotiator.” He continued: “Given the unfortunate traits that reside in our president, I understand Leader McConnell’s reluctance to get involved. But in truth, they are all the more reason for him getting involved. America needs Leader McConnell to get involved to stop this shutdown. He can’t keep ducking this issue.”

Schumer is right insofar as the Republican Senate majority cannot afford to have the government disabled on its watch for "months or even years.” McConnell and his members feel trapped now by Trump’s “erratic, unreliable and sometimes even irrational” conduct. But they have made themselves hostages. No one other than McConnell is preventing the House bill from reaching the Senate floor. No one but McConnell is preventing putting the bill that funds the rest of the government except the Department of Homeland Security.

Just as former House speaker Paul D. Ryan’s Trump toadyism and political cowardice cost him the speakership and the GOP majority, so too will McConnell’s circle-the-wagons mentality hand Democrats a perfect argument for ousting the GOP Senate majority in 2020: They cannot even keep the lights on.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Trump doesn’t understand his leverage is gone

Jennifer Rubin: Pelosi said she’d do it, and she did

Jennifer Rubin: How does Trump escape the trap he laid for himself?

Jennifer Rubin: Americans already know whom to blame for a shutdown