Updated Jun 20, 2018

Trump punts the border crisis to a broken Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's border crisis is only the latest example of the administration enacting a policy with drastic implications and telling Congress to fix it. The problem is that the strategy hasn't worked in the past, with negotiations going down in partisan flames.

Why it matters: If Congress fails yet again to find a legislative solution to a problem thrust upon it by the White House, this time it means that family separation at the border will continue until Trump caves — which is far from a fail-safe option.

On issues that have caused legislative stalemates for years — if not decades — Trump has consistently chosen to punt to Congress anyway.

"Normally recent presidents have acted through the executive action after Congress has failed. Trump’s doing the reverse — using executive action to provoke a congressional response," said Alex Conant, a former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio.

  • He decided to end the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing subsidy payments, which experts were predicting would throw the individual market into turmoil unless Congress funded them.
  • He ended DACA, which protected people who came to the United States illegally as children from deportation.
  • His administration is now enforcing a zero-tolerance policy at the border, which has effectively led to children being separated from their parents.
  • At a meeting with House Republicans last night, Trump endorsed both of the immigration bills they'll vote on this week and made it clear that he wants Congress to address the family situation issue. Both bills do, but they also include other immigration changes, which would make them harder to pass.
I’ve always viewed Donald Trump as the political equivalent of disruptive technology ... Some disruptive technologies work out really well. Some don’t.
— GOP Sen. Ron Johnson

Congress has been unable to solve any of these issues, whether that's in spite of or because of the take-it-or-leave-it White House posturing. Congressional Republicans mostly blame Democrats, Democrats blame Trump, and Trump has blamed them all at different points.

  • "It’s the legislative strategy of rolling a grenade in the room," a former GOP leadership aide told me.
  • "Trump loves to deflect attention by telling Congress to deal with an issue when he knows full well there is no majority to support the action. It is a way to take the heat off himself and place the blame on Congress when nothing changes," said Darrell West of the Brookings Institution.

Yes, but: Trump has been saved from chaos so far. The individual health care market creatively adjusted to the subsidy payment termination, and court cases are currently protecting Dreamers. It's unclear how family separation at the border will play out.

What they're saying: Democrats decry Trump's actions as risky maneuvers to force his agenda, while Republicans walk a more delicate line.

  • “All he’s doing is using hostages and we should not be using our children as hostages, we should not be using DACA recipients as hostages," said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. "It’s about a president who’s trying to act as a dictator.”
  • "What the president has done is lit a fire under us, and maybe that’s what we need," said GOP Sen. Mike Rounds. "Congress gets lackadaisical in how we do our legislation. We don’t get our work done. And we need to start getting our work done.”
  • Frequent Trump critic Jeff Flake, who's retiring, says Trump makes Congress's job harder. "The president will say do this, and this is what I’ll support, and then in the end he won’t support it," said Flake, adding that blame also lies with Congress. "But not just with Democrats, as the president has been saying.”

Why this time could be different: "There are reasons here to be concerned about kids separated from their parents and parents separated from their kids," said Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership. "It creates a greater desire of us to solve it, but also for people to want to see us solve it.”

Why it might not be: "It’s tougher in a political world that we’re in, moving into elections, because everything right now has a political dynamic that’s just wrong," said Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. "We need to be doing the right thing, not the political thing.”

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.