Steve's Blog

The Schumer Shutdown

As you may remember, the title of my blog last week was “Will Democrats Shut Down the Government this Friday?” Well, the answer to that question turned out to be “yes.”

The Dems tried to spin it that it was Republicans’ fault for the shutdown, because Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. But it didn’t work. Even usually reliable friends in the mainstream media acknowledged that the shutdown was the Democrats’ fault. For example, the New York Times headline the following morning read “Senate Democrats Block Bill to Keep Government Open Past Midnight.”

Why’d the Democrats do it? Well, first of all, they thought the press would cover for them. And some did. But the reason for the shutdown was virtually inexplicable, incomprehensible. DACA. Dreamers. It’s not their fault. And if you don’t let them stay, we’ll shut the government down, even though we agree with everything in the temporary spending bill, like healthcare for children, and funding our men and women in harm’s way in places like Afghanistan.

So Chuck Schumer and fellow Democrats in the Senate blinked first, and fast. They agreed to reopen the government, in return for a rather vague promise from Mitch McConnell to DISCUSS DACA in the Senate. The reality is, they were already doing this. And what’s possible in the House certainly isn’t assured. I think a deal there could happen, but only if border security (including a wall), progress on stopping chain migration, and ending the very flawed visa lottery is part of the agreement. We’ll see.

Another observation I’d like to make, which has been all but ignored, except for an editorial in the Wall Street Journal the other day – the Trump White House deserves considerable credit for trying to limit inconvenience and hardship on the public, and on government workers, resulting from the shutdown. The Obama Administration did just the opposite when they oversaw a shutdown.

The Trump Administration intended to keep most of the National Parks and war memorials open for visitors. The Obama Administration sought to maximize the pain, going so far as to bar disabled World War II veterans from visiting their memorial in Washington. Trump’s Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney said “we are not going to weaponize it (the shutdown.)”

Granted, the shutdown only lasted three days, and most of that over a weekend, so we never got to see the full extent of this Administration’s dealing with a shutdown. (The last one under Obama, by comparison, lasted 16 days.) But I commend the Trump Administration for the way they responded. And unhelpful tweets were kept to a minimum.

So where do we go from here? Well, the temporary budget deal only goes through February 8. So to some extent, we’re right back here again in about two weeks. But I think Chuck Schumer may have learned a lesson. One that Republicans sort of learned the hard way over the years. If you’re the one that’s at least going to be perceived as the one who “shut the government down” you better have a clear exit strategy – in case it doesn’t go the way you want. And it usually doesn’t.

And finally, the Senate needs to get rid of its stupid, outdated, destructive, 60 vote filibuster rule. It’s the principal reason for Congressional dysfunction. The House has sent hundreds and hundreds of bills to the Senate in recent years, and only a handful ever come up for a vote over there. A minority in the Senate can block virtually anything – and usually does. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Democrats get rid of it when they’re back in the majority. Republicans ought to do it now.

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