Last night, Mitch McConnell offered Senate Democrats an off-ramp from their foolish, quixotic, unpopular Schumer Shutdown -- and with internal anxieties and divisions reportedly ratcheting up, they decided to take it. Five members of the minority caucus already broke ranks on Friday to vote in favor of the House-passed spending bill, meaning that a simple majority of the US Senate was on the record in support of the GOP's government funding bill. A number of the tiny handful of Republicans who voted with Democrats last week publicly lined up behind McConnell last night.
To recap, the Republican-held House approved it, a majority of the Republican-held Senate, and the Republican president was prepared to sign it. Some liberals and spinmeisters reviewed these facts and still insisted that this shutdown was the fault of Trump and his party. The basic facts prove otherwise, however, so much so that even the Associated Press and New York Times had no choice but to appropriately assign blame where it belongs. Democrats' strategy to shut down the government in order to extract concessions on ancillary, non-budgetary political issues wasn't playing well, and looked even worse in light of Democrats' own passionately-argued stance against such tactics. So they've decided to accept the face-saving path to retreat offered by McConnell:
BREAKING: Democratic sources say there are enough YES votes to re-open the federal government, end shutdown— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) January 22, 2018
Cloture invoked, overwhelmingly. The pointless & unpopular #SchumerShutdown is ending.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 22, 2018
Democrats have managed to accede to Republican demands, demoralize their energized base, give a disengaged president a win, and look like they held a meaningless three day government shutdown — all at once.— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 22, 2018
The final tally was 81-18. The remaining no's were mostly from liberal Democrats (including, um, Dianne "People Will Die" Feinstein), especially those with presidential ambitions. A few nays came from Senators oppose governance by CR's, including Republicans Mike Lee and Rand Paul (and, for the moment, Democrat Jon Tester, who has not been a stickler on this point in the past). What are the implications of today's vote? First, it looks like the federal government is going to reopen in short order. The "shutdown" was brief and pretty painless -- especially because the Trump administration smartly went out of its way to minimize negative repercussions. This marked a very different approach from the Obama administration, which deliberately and shamefully tried to inflict as much shutdown-related inconvenience and pain upon ordinary Americans as possible, for nakedly political reasons. Second, the bill that now appears destined for passage is almost identical to the one Democrats filibustered on Friday, guaranteeing the shutdown. The only substantive difference is that the government will be funded for roughly one week less. Friday's legislation kept the government open through February 16; This one does so through February 8. Everything else is the same, including the extension of CHIP for six years, and the additional delays of several Obamacare taxes.
But there's another twist, too. The GOP has argued, rightly, that a DACA/immigration compromise should be pursued on a separate track from government funding. What McConnell has worked out with his members is a commitment to allow an open process of amendments and votes on DACA and border security bills if no broad agreement is reached prior to February 8. He also said he'd move to address other outstanding issues too. One caveat: He said clearly that he will not allow these processes to move forward if Democrats shut down the government again. Here's his floor speech delivered shortly after the chamber reconvened this morning, setting the stage for the successful cloture vote (breaking the Democrats' filibuster) moments ago:
"At twelve o’clock, we will vote to end the Democratic Leader’s filibuster and advance instead a bipartisan bill that would put this mess behind us. The bill before us does three things that every Democrat and Republican should be able to support. First, it ends this shutdown and restores full funding for the federal government through February 8th. Second, it extends health insurance for nine million vulnerable children. And third, it will enable Congress to resume serious, bipartisan talks on the important issues facing our nation...Should these issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on February 8th, so long as the government remains open it – so long as it remains open – it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security, and related issues – as well as disaster relief, defense funding, health care, and other important matters...But it is abundantly clear that the Senate cannot make progress on any of these crucial matters until the government is re-opened. We need to move forward. The first step is ending this shutdown."
As for DACA and immigration, the majority leader sketched out how he will approach votes on those complex isues: "Let me be clear, this immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset, and an amendment process that is fair to all sides. And it would be my strong preference for the Senate to consider a proposal that can be signed into law. A bipartisan, bicameral group is already negotiating, and I look forward to the completion of its work," he said. Meaning: No DACA/security deal will be prioritized over any other, and each side will have fair opportunities to offer amendments. Subtext: The 'bipartisan, bicameral' working group he references (which includes John Cornyn and Kevin McCarthy) has the best chance of passing both houses and being signed by Trump.
As we saw with the 'Gang of Eight' in 2013, producing a feel-good bipartisan consensus bill from the Senate does not mean that the more conservative House GOP majority will even consider it, let alone enact it. The goal should be passing legislation that can actually become law. And that will require a fair and equitable legal resolution for the DREAMers and meaningful border security and immigration enforcement. Parting thought: Does this inevitable Democratic cave genuinely infuriate lefty immigration activists, or is this just transitory sound and fury?
Of course, I can imagine the left-wing base being fairly upset ("miscalculated beyond belief") over today's vote. Democrats got...nothing, essentially:
If this thing passes at noon, WOW. Democrats got nothing in this. Can someone please remind me why this happened to begin with? Wasn't it abt a DACA deal? There is no DACA deal— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) January 22, 2018
If this was always Senate Democrats' exit strategy - cave in exchange for nothing - they should have just provided the 8 votes on Friday.— George Zornick (@gzornick) January 22, 2018
The Schumer Shutdown was doomed from the start. And this was the tip-off:
All anyone needed to know about this #SchumerShutdown strategy could be found in Red State Dem votes Friday night. Their bailing told anyone paying attention all they needed to know about the politics here.— Scott Jennings (@ScottJenningsKY) January 22, 2018