As President Donald Trump descends on the border Thursday to further make his case for a wall, back home in Washington congressional Republicans—the ones whose resolve he needs if he’s going to continue his shutdown campaign—are growing more anxious. While the images Trump broadcasts to the nation may bolster his case to his base, these Republicans are left to talk and share doubts among themselves.
A handful of Republican senators have so far signaled their willingness to reopen parts of the government without funding for a border wall now that the partial government shutdown is tied for the second longest in the country’s history, with no end in sight. Those Republicans include Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who told reporters on Tuesday that Congress “can focus on [Trump’s] very legitimate concerns about border security … through the Homeland Security appropriations bill” and “in the meantime, let’s allow for these other departments to do the work.”
The GOP response to all of this is crucial to ending the impasse. With enough members, Senate Republicans could potentially persuade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—and indirectly, the president—to take up legislation reopening parts of the government without the inclusion of border-wall funding. Perhaps more likely, worried Republicans could try to pressure Trump to find another way out of the mess—maybe by declaring a state of emergency in order to unlock funding for the border wall, a move that would almost certainly be met with legal challenges from Democrats. Republicans shifting on the issue may also reflect what they’re hearing from their constituents, indicating to Trump that there’s a potential voter rebellion on its way.