Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Solution to the Shutdown from Nicholas Biddle

Mark Graber

Nicholas Biddle during the first Jackson administration devised what he thought was the perfect plan for ensuring Congress rechartered the Second National Bank of the United States, which he directed.  Although the Bank’s charter was not due to expire until 1836, Biddle asked his Congressional supporters to seek a recharter in 1832.  Biddle and his political allies were confident that Jackson would not dare to make the bank an issue in the forthcoming presidential election.  If Jackson vetoed the bill, they thought, a proponent of the bank would certainly become the next president of the United States.  This was not a big success.  Jackson did veto the bank bill and then rode that veto to an overwhelming victory in the 1832 presidential election.

Biddle’s strategy provides the foundation for a fair compromise between Democrats and Republicans that could resolve the contemporary government shutdown.  Congress should agree on a bill that allocates funding for Trump's proposed wall between the United States and Mexico, but attach two conditions to that funding.  First, no money can be spent until after inauguration day 2021.  Second, any spending on the wall after inauguration day 2021 is entirely discretionary.  If the president does not believe the wall good policy, the president need not spend a cent.  The end result will be to make the 2020 presidential election analogous to the 1832 presidential election.  By passing the Nicholas Biddle Barrier Law, Congress will make the next presidential election a referendum on whether we should build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants.  

Trump can hardly claim necessity to build a wall today, given that two years have already passed since his first promise to build that barrier.  Besides if delay is the issue, Congress can always throw in a few more dollars to spend up the process after 2021.  And as was the case with the bank veto, certainly a president with a mandate is in far better position to build or not build a wall than a president performing a solo

I suspect every Democrat running for President will be happy to campaign on a platform opposing spending any of the funds set aside for the wall.  I suspect a great many Republicans, particularly in competitive states or districts, will blanch at the idea of making the 2020 election a referendum on the wall.  The Biddle compromise will thus force crucial Republicans either to acknowledge publicly that they oppose the wall or force them to run on an issue likely to benefit Democrats in the present electoral cycle.

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