Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to pass a long-term spending bill by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants.
Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013.
This is a problem of the Republicans’ own making, vividly advertised by President Trump. Trump, presented with the potential for a bipartisan fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, nixed the deal and underscored his own racist views with his now-infamous “shithole” (or “shithouse,” if one prefers) comments. He has taken to referring to the Democratic Senate whip, Richard J. Durban (Ill.), as “Dicky” — a childish (as well as unimaginative) insult that reminds us the president of the United States is every bit the man-child Michael Wolff portrayed in his book. The great dealmaker has made a mess of things and has neither the knowledge nor the ability to forge a compromise.
Republicans have backed themselves into a corner, unless they can magically produce a Republican-only long-term spending bill. Democrats have every reason to sit on their hands and withhold their votes unless and until they get a DACA fix and make headway on their demand for more parity between military and non-military funding:
“If they need Democratic votes, the overall legislation needs to meet certain Democratic criteria and be reflective of the values of the Democratic caucus and what we believe are the values of the American people,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in an interview.
Interestingly, Republicans know that the only way out is to bypass Trump and GOP hard-liners on immigration. There is a four-person group — “the ‘No. 2’s,’ as they are being called on Capitol Hill, including Durbin, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Majority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.)” — and also a bipartisan Senate group, either of which is more likely to produce a workable immigration accord than the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
If they leave the deal in the hands of the White House and Ryan, Republicans must know they will careen toward a shutdown. Ryan seems incapable of standing up to the Freedom Caucus — that is, putting a bill with a DACA fix on the floor. Such a bill would gain a majority vote of the entire House and keep the government open but infuriate his conference. (But what would they do — fire Ryan with no alternative?) Ryan still lacks the the courage and the independence of mind to reach for the easy solution — a bipartisan spending bill that solves the DACA issue once and for all. (Clinging to the Freedom Caucus will only increase the GOP’s chances of losing the majority, and with it, Ryan’s speakership.)
Democrats should hold firm, since they know all too well the GOP controls everything and therefore has the power and responsibility to keep the government open. Democrats know Trump’s racist outburst and the public’s overwhelming support for a DACA fix make it politically possible (essential, as far as the Democratic base is concerned) to hold firm.
Moreover, it is time for pro-immigration moderate Republicans, including Sens. Jeff Flake (,Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), to show some spine as well. Why aren’t they demanding a DACA fix to get their votes? They have a choice: namely, stand with the racist president and his enablers, like Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), or stand with the “dreamers” and the vast majority of Americans. This should not be a hard call.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), competing with the anti-immigration Republicans for attention (but betraying any libertarian principles), says there should be a separate immigration fix. To that, Democrats can say: Then find your own darn votes.
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