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Partial Government Shutdown Hits 2-Week Mark And Counting


For two years now, Republicans in Washington have always had the power to make the first move.


They controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Yesterday, Democrats gained the power to make a move. They passed a bill to reopen the government. It included no funding for President Trump's border wall.

INSKEEP: Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House for the second time, did not sound inclined to compromise when she spoke with reporters.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Is there any situation that you would you accept even a dollar of wall funding?



PELOSI: A dollar.


PELOSI: One dollar, yeah, one dollar.


PELOSI: But thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The president wants to cut a deal.

PELOSI: A wall is an immorality. It's not who we are as a nation. And this is not a wall between Mexico and the United States that the president is creating here. It's a wall between reality and his constituents.

INSKEEP: Pelosi spoke as new lawmakers from both parties walked the Capitol getting their pictures taken - many women, many people of color, combat veterans, many others. Amid that ceremony, parts of the government are still shut down. And the Republican Senate is not even expected to vote on that House measure. NPR's Domenico Montanaro has been following all of this, and he's with us.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Dollar and a dream, Steve - dollar and a dream.

INSKEEP: There you go - all you need. It's all you need. How different does Washington feel this morning?

MONTANARO: You know, it is very different because Nancy Pelosi and Democrats are back in power for the first time in eight years. And Pelosi's, you know, a master tactician. She's somebody who's been through the legislating, you know, back and forth for many years. She knows how this game is played. And she feels like and other Democrats feel like they're riding a wave of momentum coming off the 2018 elections, which were largely a rebuke of President Trump. And they show no signs of wanting to give in to the president and give him even that dollar - perhaps a dollar, but not much more than that - for a wall that, you know, the president said Mexico would pay for. And they're not.

INSKEEP: Well, this is the way that Pelosi framed this first day. Let's hear some more of the new speaker of the House.


PELOSI: Two months ago, the American people spoke and demanded a new dawn. They called upon the beauty of our Constitution, the - our system of checks and balances that protects our democracy, remembering that the legislative branch is Article 1 - the first branch of government coequal to the presidency and to the judiciary.

INSKEEP: Although, the checks and balances mean the Democrats would have to, presumably, compromise at some point, wouldn't they?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, it's the same thing as when President Obama was president, and you had John Boehner as speaker of the House. You know, the fact is this is divided government. And yes, Congress and the presidency are coequal branches. But that doesn't mean that Democrats who only control half of one of those branches can get everything they want also.

INSKEEP: We should mention that for a couple of years now or even a little more, President Trump has had overwhelming power to make the news. All he has to do is tweet or make a quick statement to reporters, and he dominates the headlines day after day after day. Yesterday, we had a situation where Democrats were in a position to be the ones making news because they were taking control in the House of Representatives. So we went through the day. The president didn't have the spotlight. And then abruptly, late in the afternoon, he stepped to the lectern at the White House briefing room. Let's listen to some of what he had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have never had so much support as I have in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control and for, frankly, the wall or the barrier.

INSKEEP: OK - speaks up for the wall there, Domenico. The president says the wall has support. He says the people of our country want a wall. Is that correct?

MONTANARO: Well, it's just not true. I mean, the fact that he wants to say that this is the most support he's had - you know, he may be getting lots of feedback and lots of reaction. There are certainly tens of thousands of people who will show up to his events who are supporters of his and give him that kind of feedback. But when you look at the polling, the confluence of polling has shown that more people blame the president for the shutdown than Democrats. And heading into this, more people than not - a majority, in fact, in our polling - showed that they wanted the president to compromise rather than shut the government down based on a wall.

INSKEEP: We hear a number of Republican lawmakers doing something interesting. When they talk about this, Domenico, they will say the American people want border security, which may well be true. But then what they're debating is a wall, which does a lot worse in polling, doesn't it?

MONTANARO: That's a great Washington trick. You know, conflate one thing to make your point about something completely different. Yeah. I mean, the fact is when you look at polling, people do say they want border security. They do say they want to stem a tide of immigration that's illegal to the country. But that doesn't mean that they necessarily want to pay billions of dollars for a wall along the border. In fact, they say they don't want to have to have taxpayers spend billions of dollars for a physical barrier. You know, at the same time, there are, obviously, pieces of the border that are fenced, that are - that do have walls. And the president brought people out yesterday to say that that works in certain places. And no doubt it works in certain places, but even the president himself has gone back and forth, saying that it's not maybe necessary in every part of the border.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, what are the Republicans who still control the Senate saying about all this?

MONTANARO: Well, right now, you've got at least some cracks in the Senate because you have two Republicans from Colorado and from Maine, who are up for re-election in 2020, who are saying, keep the government open without this border wall fight.

INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks for the update - really appreciate it.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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