Opinion writer

The Republican gambit to blame Democrats — who control neither the House, Senate nor White House — for failure to keep the government running was always a long shot. They are, as they keep reminding us, in charge and have the majorities to keep the government funded. Nevertheless, they’ve tried to convince dubious voters that Democrats are creating a shutdown because of that party’s desire to protect “dreamers” under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. That’s daft since, once again, a majority of Republicans are available to vote for a spending bill with no DACA fix.

Then the Republicans started digging themselves into a hole. President Trump declared he would sign any DACA deal agreed upon by Democrats and Republicans. When they gave him one, he erupted and made a racist remark. Then Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the majority leader, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said they would not bring a spending deal including a DACA fix to their floors for a vote, even though it would pass, because the president would reject it. (How they can predict what Trump will do, I have no idea.)

Worse yet, McConnell let the cat out of the bag that the problem is Trump. “I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign,” McConnell said. “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.” They will vote on a DACA fix “as soon as we figure out what he is for,” McConnell added.

Then John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff and a hardliner against immigration reform, piped up. The Post reported:

[Kelly] told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that the United States will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and that some of President Trump’s campaign promises on immigration were “uninformed.”

The comments put Kelly at odds with Trump, who repeatedly said during his presidential campaign that he would build a border wall that Mexico would pay for, not U.S. taxpayers. Kelly’s statements also reinforce the chaos and indecision over immigration policy that has plagued the White House for several months since Trump announced the end of an Obama-era program protecting young immigrant “dreamers” in September.

With party allies like this, who needs the opposition? What is apparent for all to see is that Democrats have no responsibility to concoct a solution to address the Republicans’ abject incompetence. When a majority party cannot decide what it wants, and cannot find the votes, they are admitting they cannot govern. There is a solution to that: putting the other party in charge. That won’t happen at least until the midterms, but in the meantime, if they want Democrats to help run the place, they are going to have to give them something, namely the DACA deal that Trump once promised to sign.

Meanwhile, the liberal base will devour Democrats who break ranks to allow a spending bill to pass without a DACA fix. They have no worries that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, will hold her members in line. In the Senate, the proposition is dicier, especially with so many Democrats from red states on the ballot in November. (This point is moot unless Ryan can find the votes to get a spending measure out of the House. If not, Republicans will again find themselves in that self-dug hole.) Meanwhile, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stepped forward to say he wouldn’t vote for another short-term bill, Democrats got a spine-stiffener. If a Republican won’t bail on DACA to fund the government, how can they?

UPDATE: Just to compound matters, Trump has publicly rebuked his chief of staff. “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” he tweeted. “Parts will be, of necessity, see through and it was never intended to be built in areas where there is natural protection such as mountains, wastelands or tough rivers or water.” Then to make things worse, he undercut the short-term budget extension contemplated by the House. The Post reports:

President Trump upended the GOP’s strategy to avert a shutdown early Thursday when he declared that an extension of a federal health insurance program for children “should be part of a long term solution” and not a stopgap spending plan.

That directly contradicts the legislative strategy of congressional Republicans, who added a six–[year] extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the short-term spending bill. Their goal is to force Democrats into the uncomfortable position of choosing between funding the popular program and their effort to win legal protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

Republicans will have their work cut out for them trying to shift blame to Democrats for their own erratic, haphazard and incoherent process.

Read more by Jennifer Rubin:

What Flake got right — and wrong

Trump’s biggest problem: The voters

In shutdown politics, Democrats have the upper hand

The biggest anti-immigration lie of them all

The worst possible insult Trump can receive

Morning Bits: The dealmaker can’t make a deal to keep the lights on?