The Senate and the House will vote to end the shutdown and reopen the government. At first blush, it seems as though nothing happened, and that we will be right back in the same place when the new bill’s funding runs out on February 8.
However, ten things did change, some more important than others:
1. As part of the funding bill, Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, will be reauthorized for six years. Nine million kids won’t be held hostage when the next budget impasse comes around. It is noteworthy that Democrats got that without giving up a substantive trade-off (other than re-opening the government).
2. The promise by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put a bill on the floor to address the DACA issue by Feb. 8 is a head-scratcher. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — the minority leader who is already being pummeled by immigration activists — said: “The process will be neutral and fair to all sides. We expect that a bipartisan bill on [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor.” Democrats expect that, and McConnell promised an up-or-down vote (and how could he, really?). But his promise does not and cannot bind the House.
3. Both sides know better than to negotiate with President Trump. Removing him from the equation, thereby diminishing the influence of senior adviser and anti-immigrant hardliner Stephen Miller, should make a deal possible. The great dealmaker has been sent out to pasture (or to Davos, if you prefer). Trump was exposed as a non-player, a hazard to dealmaking. That’s quite a blow to his brand.
4. This is about putting the screws to the House. The Senate, if possible, will pass a bill and then, as they like to say, “jam” the House. The bill and possibly continued funding will then rest with the House. Whether House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has the nerve to bring a DACA bill to the floor (and actually act on his sympathetic rhetoric!) is a big open question. Making House Republicans the bad guys on this may help Democrats’ chances in the midterm elections, but the path to putting an actual bill on the president’s desk is murky at best. As former Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller tweeted, “I don’t think people analyzing the politics of this have considered how bad the situation will be for the GOP if the Senate passes a DACA bill, the House doesn’t, and deportations start in the months before the midterms.” Perhaps.
5. The Democratic base will be very, very angry. If reactions by progressive senators and pro-immigration groups are any sign, they already are. Whether it reopens the Hillary-Bernie divide remains a question. Democrats did not do a good job of managing expectations (or alternatively, according to DACA advocates, they lost nerve). It’s not clear what the lasting damage will be.
6. The ugly face of Republicans’ xenophobic base was revealed. If the Democrats are smart, they will use it to register and turn out voters in places such as Texas.
7. It is unlikely to matter by the midterms. Especially during the Trump era, the sheer volume of news cycles between now and then should make this a distant memory. (If you recall, the GOP staged and lost a government shutdown in 2013, and then won big in 2014.)
8. No one looks good in a shutdown. It will likely to add to the cynicism among voters and drive Congress’s poll numbers even lower.
9. A big question will be how influential the moderates who began to talk during the shutdown will be. If they can come up with a truly bipartisan bill and put it on the floor (they’ll have enough to break a filibuster), something might actually get done — both on this and other issues.
10. Unfortunately, our adversaries got a good look at Trump’s confusion, lack of control and inability to work his way through a mini-crisis. This cannot be comforting for our democratic allies.
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