The primary arguments offered by Democrats against the wall and the demands for border security funding by Trump and the Republicans, all revolve around cost and inefficiency.

But in order to prevent the incurment of those costs, the Democrats are willing to let a shutdown go on indefinitely, despite the fact that it costs billions every week, and will soon end up costing more (if it hasn't already) the funds that Trump was asking for. See e.g. http://fortune.com/2019/01/09/govt-shutdown-2019-costs-billions/

What arguments do Democrats offer to justify this seemingly contradictory position? Have any of them been challenged on this front? What was their response?

  • 8
    Interesting question, although that question could be levied at republicans all the same, and presumably "costs billions" <= the 200 billion estimated by some researchers + billions of upkeep every year into perpetuity
    – Magisch
    Jan 14, 2019 at 9:01
  • 2
    No, it couldn't. Republicans are not putting costs as their top priority. They are willing to make the trade-off. Democrats are the ones obsessing about costs, but seem to be okay with wasting money away on a shutdown.
    – KApriciou
    Jan 14, 2019 at 15:44
  • 2
    The shutdown isn't about the wall. That is the reality here. If it were about the wall, it would be resolved already. In 2006 Democrats approved the border fence. Other Democratic proposals have offered more than the 5 billion for border walls. This issue was never about the costs.
    – David S
    Jan 14, 2019 at 17:56
  • 2
    Aren't the Democrats also ideologically opposed to the wall, not just financially?
    – user2565
    Jan 14, 2019 at 20:04
  • 2
    @barrycarter No. They support the Gang of 8 bill, which included wall funding. They supported funding the wall in other offers. A faction within the party might be opposed, but the party as a whole is not. 13 years ago Chuck Schumer is on record praising building the fencing. The party seems to be shifting on the subject, but its clearly not settled even among the leadership.
    – David S
    Jan 14, 2019 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


...why do they accept costs of shutdown?

It's not only costs. They also oppose the idea of the wall during the campaign to midterm elections. They argue that the voters wanted them to not build a wall.

Some quotes from Democrats stating explicitly that it's not only about the costs:

..are we a country that puts a wall between ourself and an allied nation or do we use smart security measures.. Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

..The Democrats do not support the wall..The wall is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise ...Building a wall is not an answer ... Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Democrats have always been for smart and effective ways to secure our border .. We are pushing for technology, like drones and sensors and inspection equipment. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Additionally, they might be afraid to show any weakness. If they can be persuaded to agree to something that they don't want to by a shutdown, they might become vulnerable to repeated extortion in this way.

You could ask the same the Republican side if a shutdown that presumably costs billions is really a good way to secure funding for a comparable, larger or possibly smaller project. Money doesn't grow on trees and at some point there won't be anything left to build a wall.

As it is, it is a loss-loss situation for both sides, but that is the general result of Government shutdowns in the US. The division of power in the US political system has a lot of advantages but also some disadvantages including this kind of gridlock.

  • 11
    @KApriciou No, you missed the answer: "...repeated extortion...". Using your logic, Democrats should just agree to any-and-everything Republicans put forward, because eventually the costs of a shutdown will outweigh it. It's completely ridiculous.
    – Geobits
    Jan 14, 2019 at 17:51
  • 1
    You will need to cite a source for "repeated extortion" here. The last two years have seen some incredible partisan politics that can be viewed as Democrats attempting to extort Republicans just as much as vice versa. Also, it isn't much extortion when Democrats wont entertain a negotiation that includes a wall.
    – David S
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:02
  • 2
    @DavidS It is extortion when Republicans won't entertain a negotiation that precludes a wall. I agree, though, that the Dems should come to the table with a Republican golden egg - gun control. It'd be interesting to see how that would turn out. Could be a great opportunity to get funding for gun safety research (to get some evidence based guidance on whether and how much various gun control legislation would impact public safety), though I suspect that the Republicans would be as unmoving there as the Dems are on the wall.
    – cpcodes
    Jan 14, 2019 at 21:28
  • 2
    @KApriciou "...Worry about doing your bloody job properly." Just a little reminder. This is not a place to rant or being unfriendly. It may be a good idea to study the code of conduct. Jan 14, 2019 at 22:01
  • 4
    @JJJ True, which puts the Dems in an unenviable position - do they appease the president who wants a wall, or do they appease the opposing legislators who don't care one way or the other about a wall, certainly won't give anything up to get it, but must maintain the illusion of solidarity with the president by demanding it? You have to give them funding for a wall, and you can't expect any concession in return. It seems their best play is to let the Repubs sweat until they are willing to make concessions just to end the shutdown, regardless of whether they want a wall or not.
    – cpcodes
    Jan 15, 2019 at 0:16

For the same reason it's sometimes wiser for a consumer to pursue a customer service complaint or refund for some relatively trivial sum from a stubbornly malfeasant business. Suppose it would cost the consumer more in lost time than the refund is worth. Nevertheless completing the complaint has other long term benefits that may outweigh the short term losses:

  1. Whatever the complaint costs the consumer, it usually costs the business even more in lost man-hours. This reduces profits for the malfeasant business, (and they know it), which is the next best thing to bopping them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
  2. If the complaint has any public aspect, this signals to others that problems exist. Those newly informed others may elect to do their business elsewhere, or start a class-action lawsuit, or something else.
  3. In the long run the complaints may help the business prosper by showing it how to correct a flawed procedure or policy.
  4. In the long run well-founded complaints can tend to help all consumers. Particularly when more consumers complain where necessary. The advantage is similar to the public benefit of widespread vaccination.
  5. Where consumers tolerate chicanery, this rewards the malfeasant business, and signals to it that it should continue that rewarding practice, and the problems will become worse -- better to nip it in the bud.

If a particular government shutdown is both extortionate and ill-founded, then permitting it to succeed is bad policy in the short term, (funding some ill-founded goal), and bad policy in the long term, (its success would inspire and embolden similar extortionate strategems).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .