It’s early, but this shutdown isn’t the only political inroads Democrats made last year

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in a Jan. 24 speech, apologized for the “shock and disappointment” his conference felt when asked about a plan to spare young immigrants from deportation. A few days later,…

It’s early, but this shutdown isn’t the only political inroads Democrats made last year

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in a Jan. 24 speech, apologized for the “shock and disappointment” his conference felt when asked about a plan to spare young immigrants from deportation. A few days later, the official GOP Twitter account became a tiny, crumpled heap. Someone had tried to blame House Democrats for the government shutdown, and found no supporters to go along with their conspiracy theory.

So why are rank-and-file Republicans growing so weary with the national party leadership?

The answer may lie in inside-the-Beltway realpolitik. With their base demoralized and in disarray, the party faithful wonder why, in the midst of a fight over immigration, they should throw money at Trump. Why should they support a Republican president who they say has no authority over immigration policy? Why should they give the president, even for one year, the money for a border wall? Why, for starters, have 81 House Democrats voted for a bill that they thought could have provided protections for young people living in the country illegally if the president had signed the legislation, which was contingent on a first year’s worth of funding for the border wall?

“When you’re at this level, you have to explain to Republicans that you’re a small player,” said Jason Fischel, a longtime Republican lobbyist who helped Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign during the 2012 cycle.

“Part of the problem we have is the numbers we have,” said Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman who as an attorney specialized in obtaining information from sealed court proceedings. “You have to remember this government spending bill included $7 billion in wall money. Is it the cheapest wall you could have built for that amount of money? Well, Republicans might not believe it.”

On paper, Republicans own the shutdown. They voted for the continuing resolution that provided them with $5.7 billion in funding for the wall, plus $1.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with a humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. On paper, Democrats don’t. But because Democrats were among the first to characterize the border funding as a side trick, few Republicans are eager to sign on to their own protest.

Gillespie suggested that, in addition to going where the money is, House Republicans could run the government for a few weeks on another measure. It calls for a series of budget cuts and use those to support payments for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program was created in 2012 by executive order but canceled in 2013 by the Obama administration after Republicans and Democrats, all with differing levels of importance, talked for months about the possibility of continuing it. After that snags, the money would evaporate and the program would be canceled. In essence, the bill that Republicans would back would ensure the program exists at least through March 5.

“If nothing has happened and the votes aren’t there to repeal DACA, then go on a three-week shutdown for those three weeks,” said Gillespie. “‘Here’s $7 billion for the wall and the DACA solution. You vote on it for three weeks and bring it back with a stopgap measure for another couple of weeks.’”

Trump has repeatedly sought to prod Republicans to get behind his shutdown fight. He tweeted that Ryan should have been “prompt” to stop the deal that Democrats sent him. That followed his letter to Democrats calling on them to “unconditionally” support a spending bill. The president has met privately with Ryan and other House leaders to tweak strategy, but his demands have been more bark than bite.

“You can tell he’s frustrated,” Gillespie said. “It’s a sea change. But I don’t think that’s what’s going to end up happening.”

Michael Grunwald writes about politics for the Washington Post. He is the author of “The New New Deal,” “Double Down” and “Game Change.”

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