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Shutdown Day 26: A game of chicken no one wants to lose

As costs of shutdown grow, so does sense among both sides that they need a substantial win to show for it.

Yuri Gripas/Reuters
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talks with an aide as she walks through statuary hall heading to an event advocating for the 'Raise the Wage Act' and a national $15 an hour minimum wage shortly after asking President Donald Trump to delay his State of the Union Address due to the ongoing partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill on Jan. 16.

The government shutdown is now on Day 26, the longest in history, and its impact – from airports to prisons to food safety – is growing exponentially.

Yet as of now, there’s no end in sight. Neither President Trump nor the Democrats are showing any sign of budging from their positions. Neither side is proposing a compromise. Instead, each is effectively waiting for the other to fold.

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Mr. Trump suggesting that the State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 29, ought to be postponed until after the government has reopened.

Frankly, that might be a good idea – since it’s hard to envision what, exactly, Trump would say were the speech to take place as planned. The state of the union is… shut down? Dysfunctional? Locked into a crisis of its own making that is causing damage to individuals’ and the nation’s economic well-being?

Perversely, the very length of the shutdown seems to be creating a disincentive to end it. Democrats say that capitulating to Trump’s demands at this point would be like rewarding “hostage-taking.”

“The last thing you want to do is reward the president’s behavior,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) said today on CNBC.

Likewise, among the president and his allies, there seems to be a sense that now that they’ve come this far, they need to get something even more substantial out of it.

In an anonymous op-ed in the Daily Caller this week, a senior administration official writes that he/she hopes the shutdown “lasts a very long time, till the government is changed and can never return to its previous form.”

“The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall,” the official writes. “If this fight is merely rhetorical bickering with Nancy Pelosi, we all lose, especially the president. But if it proves that government is better when smaller, focusing only on essential functions that serve Americans, then President Trump will achieve something great that Reagan was only bold enough to dream.”

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