Sometimes you have to blink to clear your vision. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was wise to back down in the fight over the government shutdown. Party activists are reportedly livid over what they see as a Schumer sellout on protecting “dreamers,” but shutdowns are shaky ground on which to press policy goals. The principles and arguments get lost in ticking clocks on media screens and in stories such as delaying death-benefit payments for veterans. Schumer realized there was better ground on which to fight and by “losing” this round, he set his party up for an important victory in the coming weeks.
Some Democrats argue Schumer’s surrender robs the party of its leverage in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, debate. Wrong. The president set a March 5 deadline for reenacting the protections he ended for dreamers, a deadline that seems a little less ominous because of recent court action, but nonetheless one that remains fixed in the minds of many activists and reporters as an important date.
This deadline, as well as the ongoing uncertainty in the status of a group of people who inspire widespread sympathy in most Americans, puts pressure on the president and Republicans in Congress to “save the dreamers.” Watch for increasing media coverage of the sad circumstances of families under threat of being torn apart because a failure to resolve DACA hangs over them like a sword. On this issue, unlike the shutdown, Schumer enters the fight with widespread public support, a united party, and a divided and vulnerable opponent in Republicans, who run the ideological gamut on the issue from immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller to moderates such as Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. So, Schumer’s retreat gives him the high ground for the next — and more important — battle.