FORGET DONALD TRUMP. The president — erratic, posturing, pandering and detail-averse — does not have the dealmaking chops to break the current deadlock with Democrats and reopen the government. That’s no excuse for Congress to sit on its hands. Instead of digging themselves deeper into their own trench of irreconciliation, why don’t lawmakers put a tough-minded deal on the president’s desk and force his hand?
That deal, as many in Washington know and have advocated for months, involves a swap: Shield hundreds of thousands of “dreamers” from the threat of deportation, ensuring them the safe and secure lives they deserve in the country they’ve known since they were brought to this nation as children. On top of that, grant a reprieve to tens of thousands of Hondurans, Haitians and Salvadorans who have lived legally for years in the United States but now face the threat of removal as the administration rescinds their existing protections under the temporary protected status (TPS) program. In return, offer Mr. Trump some money to build his wall.
Everyone gnashes their teeth over that tradeoff, proof that it contains the elements of a plausible compromise. There’s no shortage of House Democrats, reveling in their new majority, who say they will “never” fund Mr. Trump’s wall, nor even a portion of it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), AWOL since the president flipped on a stopgap funding measure to keep the government running last month, remains in his sullen funk, refusing to bring legislation to a vote without Mr. Trump’s say-so. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) frames the debate, specifically the wall, in terms of morality — a surefire kiss of death.
It may feel comfortable to wallow in the moral certainties of a No Deal, but why stoop to the president’s level? Newly elected Democrats who flipped previously GOP-held seats might take account of their swing-voting constituents who might be fine with a measure of creative conciliation that restarts the government. Democrats from Trump-hating districts can sell the deal as a rescue package for well more than 1 million dreamers and TPS recipients who face imminent and drastic threats to their futures. Republicans who want to build a wall can crow that they secured funding, at last, for a down payment on one.
In a political age that has become solution-averse, these are the building blocks of an honorable way out from the current dead end. Of course, Mr. Trump will snarl, threaten a veto and maybe make good on that threat. If he does, the ball will be in his court, his hand forced to produce an alternative — or Congress can override, as the Constitution allows.
Congress is a separate branch of government; it needn’t be paralyzed by a tantrum-prone president. The legislative branch is empowered to send legislation to the White House. Has it forgotten it has that prerogative?