Analysis: Why the Foolish 'Schumer Shutdown' Makes a Fair DACA Deal Harder to Achieve

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 10:35 AM

Let's begin with one last round of football-spiking over Democrats getting drubbed in a pointless government shutdown fight they foolishly picked with Republicans last week.  They obviously believed they'd win by default, given the perennial -- and often correct -- perception that any and all shutdowns are blamed on the the government-skeptical party.  But the polling turned out to be mixed, at best, for Shutdown Chuck and his cohorts, leading to a near-universal verdict following their capitulation: Democrats lost.  There's one extra-tasty morsel in this montage, which comes around the (1:22) mark.  I'd tell you who it features in advance, but don't want to ruin the surprise.  Via the Free Beacon:

I guess Schumer didn't have a chance to write or vet the script that night; perhaps he was taking the evening off to deal with the left-wing protesters picketing his home in New York (which, to borrow a hot lefty phrase these days, is not normal).  In the end, a number of polls showed most Americans blaming Trump and the GOP (combined) more than Democrats, but there was also pretty lopsided opposition to shutting the government down over immigration.  Plus, voters in states where Democrats are trying to protect vulnerable Senate incumbents this year were significantly more inclined to (correctly) point the finger at the Democratic Party for their filibuster against a majority-supported government funding bill.  So the strategy, if you can call it that, was unsustainable from the start.  In his post-loss spin, Schumer has tried to argue that the 69-hour impasse somehow improved the chances for a DACA deal to help the DREAMers.  That's ridiculous.  His stunt temporarily derailed those ongoing talks by forcing a hyper-partisan showdown over the separate issue of keeping the government open, all while embracing "hostage taking" tactics that he'd previously assailed as sowing "governmental chaos."  Well played.  

And now that the hard Left is hopping mad at Senate Democratic leadership, their capacity to agree to a DREAM Act compromise that is actually reasonable and fair is diminished.  Anything that the base might view as a painful concession to Trump in a final agreement risks fueling the fury that was generated by Schumer's shutdown miscalculation.  A self-inflicted wound.  That's clearly why the Senate Minority Leader felt compelled to ostentatiously pull funding for Trump's border wall off the bargaining table.  The problem with doing so, of course, is that the genie is out of the bottle.  Schumer and other Congressional lefties have already offered that concession, so it's not going away.  It's the new baseline for the remaining rounds of negotiations.  Democrats can no longer claim that full funding for the border wall is an unreasonable demand from the White House because Schumer already explicitly and proactively put it out there as something he could live with.  And I do mean full funding, too.  Wow:

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has pulled back an offer of $25 billion for President Donald Trump’s long-promised southern border wall, as lawmakers scrambled to figure out how to push a deal to protect 700,000 or more so-called Dreamer immigrants from deportation…Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Schumer had promised $25 billion for the wall and other border security measures, though not all of that would have been immediate funding. He called Schumer’s withdrawal of the offer “a step backward.”

That's a massive figure that goes way beyond the unacceptable pittance agreed upon in the recent "gang of six" proposal (which would be 'dead on arrival,' according to the White House).  Cornyn's caveat about the money not being appropriated immediately is an important one, as Ed Morrissey explains: "Schumer was offering an authorization rather than an appropriation. Authorizations are cheap, as Schumer proved by voting to authorize a border wall in 2006 and blocking the funding for it ever since."  Any deal involving border security must include actual appropriation of funds, not the mere authorization of funds, which can be ignored and subverted.  Liberals want a "clean" DREAM Act, but they're not going to get one (to believe otherwise is "delusional" says one Democratic Senator), nor should they.  They lost a bunch of elections and don't get to dictate the agenda.  They'd also never agree to a "clean" border security overhaul because their base has shifted radically toward an open borders stance, embracing virtue signaling on immigration in the form of out-of-the-mainstream public policy positions.  As I said on Shannon Bream's program this week, a viable DACA deal will resolve DREAMers' legal status and beef up immigration enforcement.  History teaches us that amnesties beget more illegal immigration, so agreeing to another amnesty without taking additional concrete steps to control and repel illegal border crossings would be irresponsible:

Liberal panelist Richard Fowler objected to my use of the term "amnesty" in this context, later explaining that DREAMers who were brought to America as young children couldn't have formed any intent to break the law.  But I employed the (admittedly loaded) term as an accurate descriptor, not a value judgment.  DREAMers' lack of moral culpability for violating our immigration laws is why they're such a sympathetic group.  Nevertheless, extending legal status to an entire class of illegal immigrants is, by definition, an amnesty.  Words have meaning. In any case, while Democrats certainly have their internal tensions to struggles to deal with, it remains entirely unclear what the Republican position is in advance of a would-be DACA deal.  Their shutdown victory is fleeting, with another deadline looming, and significant divisions lurk ahead.  To wit, there's an awful lot of ideological territory between terms that would be acceptable to a Jeff Flake and terms that would be acceptable to a Tom Cotton.  

My view is that the GOP should pick one or two simple and straightforward demands (let's say real funding for a real wall, and some modest reforms toward merit-based immigration vs. chain migration), and stick to those.  They're not going to get everything they want.  The concessions expected of Democrats should be commensurate with the discrete issue on the table; conservatives aren't going to be able to reimagine America's entire immigration policy regime in a DACA bill.  Once a reasonable middle ground is established, based on what Republicans can accept, it'll be up to President Trump to sell those terms to a base that is much more hostile to the DREAM Act than the vast majority of Americans.  A final compromise is almost certainly going to enflame loud elements of both parties' core constituencies.  The GOP likely has a bumpy road ahead, but the humiliating Schumer Shutdown and the party's subsequent cave will also make striking that balance riskier and more challenging for Democrats.