The government looks quite likely to shut down at midnight, and it's because both Republicans and Democrats refuse to vote for things they support.
That statement might seem odd, but it's a pretty complete encapsulation of how this whole mess came about and why it's reached an impasse. And it's a rather remarkable snapshot of what our politics have become.
President Trump and Republicans indicated that they support codifying DACA — the program protecting young immigrants who were brought illegally as children — yet they somewhat bizarrely attempted to use the consensus program as though it were a concession to Democrats in exchange for border security and wall funding. Even more bizarrely, Trump then unexpectedly torched that bipartisan deal after deciding Democrats didn't give him enough . . . in exchange for something (DACA) that he, again, said he wanted Congress to do.
And now Democrats have, in almost complete unison, apparently decided they will refuse to support a simple continuing resolution (CR) because it doesn't contain DACA — even though they don't appear to take issue with anything that's actually in the bill. All but six House Democrats voted against the month-long CR on Thursday, and nine Senate Democrats who provided crucial votes for the last CR say they won't back this one, meaning it doesn't have the votes to overcome the Senate's 60-vote threshold right now.
In some ways, the situation is a role-reversal of the 2013 shutdown, when Republicans were in the minority and demanded that the government funding bill would cut off funding for Obamacare. That was outside the usual scope of what they were debating, but they decided it was worth it to try to force the issue.
Democrats will reject that comparison, and they have a reasonably good argument. Unlike defunding Obamacare, they'll note, DACA is overwhelmingly popular with the American people and had been agreed to by a bipartisan group of lawmakers before Trump pulled the plug on it. They are not drawing a line in the sand on a hugely divisive issue like the GOP did, but rather trying to force the issue on something even GOP voters overwhelmingly support in theory.
Which is fair. But in the end, Democrats are still refusing to vote to fund the government because they are seeking something extra — and something Republicans have said they'd be glad to address after the shutdown is averted. Republicans have voted almost unanimously for a noncontroversial CR, and Democrats have provided the votes that technically mean the government wouldn't be funded after midnight. “There are no provisions that any of my Democratic friends oppose,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday night. “It is a simple step that will let us continue bipartisan talks without throwing the government into disarray for no reason.”
It's a gamble for both sides, and as Paul Kane notes, it's not really clear who has the upper hand. If Americans think Trump and the Republicans are being ridiculous by not letting a consensus program like DACA be part of the deal, they'll get the blame. If they focus merely on the fact that Democrats are technically supplying the votes against a noncontroversial bill, the blue team could pay a price. And given Democrats already look like huge favorites in the 2018 midterm elections, they seem to have more to potentially lose.
But it's worth bringing this back to the sentence at the top of this post: That this is about two sides refusing to vote for things they support — and that the American people overwhelmingly support. There isn't really a controversial piece of this puzzle. A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday showed 73 percent of people support DACA. Members of both parties and the American public overwhelmingly support the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which Republicans added to the bill to try to secure Democratic votes (yet again attempting to use something everyone already says they support extending as leverage). Basically nobody involved wants a government shutdown.
And yet, in this political moment in time, that setup has somehow led us to the brink of a shutdown and neither side budging. Yay, democracy!