A woman holds up a signs in support of the Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, during an immigration reform rally at the White House. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Opinion writer

There is lots of talk about whether Democrats will try to shut down the government, after the two-week funding bill runs out, in order to get relief for young people affected by President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight ponders: “Democrats arguably have more to lose politically from a shutdown than Republicans. They hold a large lead on the generic congressional ballot, and Trump is deeply unpopular. Together, this means Democrats have a good shot at taking back the House of Representatives next year. Any unpopular moves such as forcing a shutdown could lower those odds.”

Trump vows that if there is a shutdown, “I would absolutely blame the Democrats.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insists Trump is the only one who wants a shutdown. She does, however, vow not to leave for recess without rescuing the young people known as dreamers.

Wait. Democrats cannot shut down the government. They are the minority party and have neither the power nor the responsibility to keep the lights on and the government open. In fact, they could allow debate in the Senate to commence (not filibuster) and then vote no on passage of a spending bill. If Republicans don’t have the votes to pass it — because the Freedom Caucus in the House is in a tizzy or the hard-liners in the Senate insist on more cuts in domestic spending — Republicans will be responsible for the shutdown. Democrats should be clear and they should correct reporters who ask them if they are going to try to shut down the government.

Now, the real question is whether, in exchange for getting the GOP off the hook (if the GOP cannot find votes to fund the government), Democrats will condition their help on a DACA fix. They’d be nuts not to, if Republicans cannot keep the government running with their own party in the majority in both houses and a GOP president. Democrats should give their votes for a spending bill they don’t like for nothing? (That’s like Trump giving Russia a truce in Syria with nothing in return, or giving the Chinese a great propaganda show without getting concessions on trade or concrete promises to help pressure North Korea.) Democrats surely are smarter than that.

A DACA fix (as well as reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP) should be a no-brainer for Democrats. A CBS poll this month showed 84 percent of Americans, including 74 percent of Republicans, favor keeping the dreamers. A Fox News poll found 83 percent of voters favor protection for the dreamers.

What’s more, Democrats have some powerful pro-DACA allies. The New York Times reports that “a wide range of well-organized, well-financed supporters are lining up behind the Dreamers, including celebrities, philanthropists, religious groups and pillars of corporate America.” The Times explains:

Some 60 businesses, trade associations and other groups representing virtually every major industry formed the Coalition for the American Dream. Among the participants are Coca-Cola, Western Union, Ikea, Hilton and Marriott.

The companies, which have a substantial lobbying presence in Washington, began leveraging relationships with lawmakers from districts where they have major operations. In mid-November, a lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill involved officials from 40 large companies introducing DACA recipients who work for their firms to lawmakers. … Fwd.us, an advocacy group backed by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, and the New American Economy, representing a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders, began organizing events. A television, media and celebrity-outreach campaign got under way, much of it coordinated by Emerson Collective, the organization founded by Ms. Jobs, the widow of Steven P. Jobs, the Apple co-founder.

Since DACA is a base-pleaser, popular with the country at large and a winner with business donors, it sure sounds like a political winner for Democrats. To pull this off without getting blame for the shutdown, Democrats should remind voters of several simple points: (1) The GOP can fund the government if it wants to; (2) the dreamers were innocent children when they were brought here and now live productive lives; and (3) if Democrats don’t do this now, Trump’s promise to address DACA later will turn out like most every promise of his — a con, a fraud, a bait-and-switch.

Sure, Democrats could overreach on DACA demands, but so far they’ve said they are willing to take additional steps to enhance border security (even though border arrests are at their lowest level in decades) — just not building the wall. So long as they stick to that trade-off, they have every reason to hold firm. And if Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and other anti-immigrant hawks don’t like it, they need to come up with the votes on their side of the aisle to keep the government running or get ready to shoulder the blame for another shutdown.