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    Professor on Shutdown: 'Pressure is Really on Republicans in the Senate to Act'

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    A partial reopening of the US government for a few weeks would allow talks to resume between Republicans and Democrats. This is what chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, told Trump on Sunday. Sputnik has discussed this with Dr Jeanne Zaino, American political analyst and professor of Political Science at Iona College.

    Sputnik: Senator Lindsey Graham is calling on Trump to temporarily reopen the government arguing it will rekindle the dialogue between the GOP and the Dems. How efficient is this solution?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: It's imperative for the Republicans and I think Lindsey Graham is a very close ally of the president. He's been very supportive of President Trump. The fact that he is coming out and saying this now suggests that the Republicans in the Senate are feeling a lot of political pressure. This is now, as you mentioned, the longest shutdown, partial shutdown, in history.

    We are at over 21 days now. People haven't gotten paychecks, over 800,000 workers.

    So the pressure is really on Republicans in the Senate to do something and to act, and Lindsey Graham is suggesting to the president what has been suggested earlier, which is that you reopen most of the government; you maybe keep Homeland Security shut and you continue to debate the best policy about the border and security, but you don't hold their these 800,000 people and their paychecks hostage while you have a political debate with the Democrats in the House.

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    Sputnik: Doctor, isn't Mr Trump shooting himself in the foot with this government shutdown? I mean, I bet you anything you like that all of these unpaid government workers won't vote for him in 2020.

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: Yeah, that's part of the issue. This is hitting some of his supporters very, very hard. Similar to the issue he faces with the tariffs on China where some of his key voters are getting hit by those, and so that is a gamble he's taken. But again, this is a president who has decided to play solely to his base.

    From the time he was elected, even before that, he has chosen not to try to reach out and above and be inclusive to say independents and people in the middle and to build a core of support, he has instead buckled down with his base. The minute he decided politically to do that he then has a danger that he's at about 35% — 38%. He can't go much lower and still hope to fend off a challenge in 2020.

    So I do think politically that his best bet may be to reopen with an eye on declaring an emergency or to declare an emergency. Now I'm not saying that's the best option for the United States, probably for him politically, he understands that in the absence of that he has a very tough time winning in 2020.

    Sputnik: Doctor, I know it's very hard to make forecasts in this crazy day and age, but how much longer will the shutdown go on given the lack of common ground on the wall issue?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: I think it is at this point up to the Republicans in the Senate; if they either peel off from the president and decide to pass a continuing resolution to reopen the government. I doubt they'll want to do that, they seem to want to support the president, that's one option. The other option is again the president does what Lindsey Graham is suggesting.

    He says I'm not going to hurt these workers, they're important to me, I'm going to reopen this thing because the Democrats won't negotiate and then he tries to negotiate this thing out.

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    So those are options, but as you mentioned, so hard to predict particularly with this president. I mean, if we just go back to how this thing started, he had given Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, all indications that he was going to find a continuing resolution in December and keep the government open.

    He did a quick about-face and decided he was going to play hardball, and that's why Mitch McConnell has stepped out of negotiations; because he feels like this is a president he doesn't know how he's going to go in one day to the next.

    So he's sort of stepped out of these negotiations. So it's very hard to predict what the president will do, but the pressure is on him. The polls show that people are blaming him and the Republicans for this, very hard for him to keep this up for a long time.

    Sputnik: Doctor, how tangible is the fact of the government shutdown on the life of ordinary Americans?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: It's really not as tangible because this is a partial shutdown. So there are sectors that are being hurt. For instance, the TSA. We're hearing about airports closing parts of their airports. They don't have enough TSA agents working there. Or in agriculture and in small business. You're hearing people who aren't getting the help, the services they need.

    So on top of the workers, there are sectors being hurt, but I think the latest poll said something about 8 out 10 Americans are not feeling this shutdown; because, of course, it's a partial shutdown, about 25% the government.

    Most of our other services are open and running. So people are feeling it, of course, we had two weeks of holidays here that sort of made it less tangible, but I think, of course, the longer it goes the more the media is driven by stories about people who are taking money out of their children's college accounts to pay rent.

    Those kinds of things add up and add pressure, but to your point, it's really not being felt terribly at this point by most Americans.

    READ MORE: Trump Furious Over Dems 'Having Fun' Amid Government Shutdown

    Sputnik: What solution could turn the tide in this deadlock?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: You know, I think the solution, I don't see any way in which the Democrats are going to give more than the $1.7 billion they offered for him to do the wall. So I think unless the president is willing to come down to that Democrats are going to stay firm because they are, of course, playing to a very liberal base that does not like Donald Trump.

    And so Republicans, I think the real end of the shutdown is going to come when Republicans in the Senate start to feel that they cannot go home to their constituents anymore and make a viable case that they should keep the government shutdown in order to negotiate this wall; and you have about 22 Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020. Some of those have already, we've got Cory Gardner in Colorado, for instance, a state that's quickly turning purple and blue, he may lose his re-election over something like this.

    So I think the pressure is going to come from those Republicans. They're going to have to feed it to the White House and see if the president changes his mind and I would just add that we've heard that over the weekend the president was most unhappy with his interim Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney for suggesting that the president try to negotiate this out; and what we heard is that to the Senate Republic leadership he used some choice words to describe his acting chief of staff, because again, he does not want to negotiate this out, but Mick Mulvaney, having been in Congress understands that in the end, he's probably going to have to.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Dr Jeanne Zaino and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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