You’ve probably already heard about Trump’s tweet on Wednesday barring transgender people from serving in the military. But the ongoing fallout from his foolish move may imperil the financing to start work on his long-promised border wall with Mexico.
The House of Representatives is currently debating a defense bill that would appropriate $1.6 billion for the wall. The bill has been held up as conservatives fought for a provision that would prevent the military from paying for gender transition treatments or hormone therapy. Trump figured that simply eliminating transgender service members would make the dispute go away. After all, what do thousands of active duty members of the military matter when there’s a wall waiting to be built?
As usual, Trump badly miscalculated. A tweet does not constitute a legal order. The military has already indicated that their policies will remain the same until Trump gives an order to Secretary Mattis, and Mattis provides implementation guidance. Several groups, including the ACLU, have already promised to challenge any such moves in court. All of which means that there will continue to be transgender military personnel for months, if not years, to come.
Far from resolving the question of whether the military should pay for transition treatments, Trump’s hasty tweet has pushed it into front page news. A bill that had received almost no notice will now have people flooding their representatives’ offices with calls. And while most of those calls will be about the rights of transgender individuals to serve, many will also mention the wall. Given that a majority of Americans oppose the wall, those calls can only make the bill more toxic.
If nothing else, this is sure to slow down the bill’s passage. Republican representatives are already facing voters’ wrath over passing their awful health care bill, and will now face another highly contentious vote. It may even cause the bill to fail in an intra-party split, just as the various versions of Trumpcare have.
If there’s one thing that Trump excels at, it’s being his own worst enemy.