There was a time, in the very recent past, when Democrats insisted that a partial government shutdown would usher in the apocalypse -- overwrought framing they promiscuously apply to numerous political debates -- and any attempt to extract policy concessions during a shutdown showdown was extreme recklessness. Obama White House officials likened lawmakers seeking to leverage fiscal "cliff" scenarios for ideological gain to hostage takers, kidnappers, arsonists and suicide bombers. There was also a time, in the very recent past, when Democrats demanded an extension of CHIP, a healthcare program for children (proposals to do just that they voted against, over funding mechanism disagreements). More than a dozen upper chamber Democrats also lined up to vote with Republicans against the implementation of Obamacare's harmful, job-killing and innovation-stifling medical device tax. Last night, House Republicans overcame internal divisions and passed a government funding bill that would keep the lights on for another month, would allocate money to keep CHIP running for six years, and would further delay a handful of unpopular Obamacare taxes. Nearly every lower chamber Democrat voted no. Or as Democrats would likely put it if the roles were reversed, nearly every House Democrat voted against the children and the troops, and in favor of shutdown chaos. Monsters.
Attention now shifts to the Senate, where Democrats are boasting to reporters that they've marshaled the requisite votes to block GOP attempts to keep the federal government open, via a filibuster. Even if every Senate Republican voted for the House-passed plan (Mitch McConnell's caucus has a few members who've vowed to vote no), 60 votes are required to overcome a potential minority filibuster. And Democrats are stating, quite openly, that they're ready to filibuster the GOP spending bill and force a shutdown unless they get their way on immigration. Chuck and Nancy are banking on two dynamics here: First, that the public will be inclined to blame any shutdown on the party that is intrinsically more hostile toward government (not a bad bet), and second, that the press will help them blame Republicans -- or at least muddy the waters (also a decent wager). But the dynamics are so clear on this one that the media has had less room for obfuscation. I'm not sure Democrats were counting on headlines like this:
BREAKING: Senior Democratic aide tells NBC News that Democrats have enough votes to block the spending bill in the Senate and prevent Republicans from keeping the government up and running— Evan Rosenfeld (@Evan_Rosenfeld) January 18, 2018
It's hard to spin that as anything other than a 'Schumer Shutdown,' as Republicans are aptly labeling it on social media. Why is the Senate Minority Leader promising to kill a bill that would keep the government open and give years-long stability to a healthcare program he believes is vital? Because of pressure from his left-wing base over DACA. Put bluntly, Senate Democrats are prepared to shut down the government on behalf of illegal immigrants. I've made clear that I favor a DREAM Act compromise and support ongoing negotiations to that end (though initial drafts of a potential agreement are far too weak on border security and enforcement). But the DACA deadline is about a month-and-a-half away, with good-faith bipartisan talks still underway. Needlessly tying a specific DREAM Act outcome to keeping the government funded, especially while eschewing a CHIP extension, looks foolish and unreasonable. But it's what the base wants. Thus, whiplash:
Senate Democrats then: nothing should stand in the way of passing CHIP funding, short-term CRs are irresponsible, DACA deserves serious debate— Mattie Duppler (@MDuppler) January 19, 2018
Senate Ds now: hold CHIP funding hostage for a 72 hour CR so we can cram down a DACA deal over the weekend
A senior aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan laid things out clearly and effectively in a tweet storm last evening. A sampling:
This is not a on-one-hand-but-on-the-other situation. They’re not even hiding it. Democrats are openly saying they are using the filibuster to shut down the government to try to get something entirely unrelated.— Brendan Buck (@BrendanBuck) January 19, 2018
We are not jamming anything on Democrats they don’t support. We’re just saying keep the government open and fund children’s health insurance while we continue to work out a deal on DACA.— Brendan Buck (@BrendanBuck) January 19, 2018
But that's what Republicans did under Obama, critics will object. Yes, although the GOP had at least won back some power on the promise of stopping the Obama agenda by that point, which they were exerting. Either way, it didn't work out especially well for the party, even if it didn't end up hurting them in the following national election. And Democrats condemned those tactics in the most hyperbolic of terms, blasting the GOP as unconscionably irresponsible. Now Democrats find themselves out of power, so they're eagerly "taking hostages." It seems as though political parties radically alter their own positions and rhetoric when their electoral fates change. What a surprise. I'll leave you with my analysis from this morning on the Schumer Shutdown, and why the Democrats' spin is weak:
Keep the government open, and keep the DACA talks open, too. The latter an important goal, but there's still time to address and achieve it. Two issues, two tracks. By the way, if Democrats do force a (partial) shutdown, I'll highlight this thought experiment from last year:
Re-upping this piece from last year. If Dems shut down the govt, should the Trump admin do the *opposite* of Clinton & Obama and make it as painless as possible? Reverse shutdown theater. Prioritize troops, Soc Sec payments, NIH research, etc. https://t.co/fjaRZjEWYy— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 18, 2018
How they could play it: "We regret that Democrats have decided to shut down the government on behalf of illegal immigrants whose ordeal we also support resolving. This is unwise, in our view, and we are eager to reopen the government as soon as possible. But as long as Democrats insist that it remain closed, the Trump administration -- unlike previous Democratic administrations -- will do everything in its power to make this partial government shutdown as unobtrusive and painless as possible for the American people." A teachable moment, perhaps? By the way, how can someone like Dianne Feinstein say this, then vote against a reasonable CR?
"People die, accidents happen," Feinstein tells @tedbarrettcnn about the impacts of a government shutdown, saying she is uncertain how she will vote on CR, despite press release her office issued today saying she was a 'no.' https://t.co/Rfp5lsgmnL— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 18, 2018