Hello friends. Let’s take this time we have together and talk a little about the mini-shutdown we all lived through. There are a lot of takes floating around about what the Democrats did do and did not do and what they should have done. A LOT of folks think they caved and lost the whole PR war around this incident. I’m not so sure.
Let’s go back to the long-ago days of last week and discuss the bi-partisan deal Senators Durbin and Graham presented to Trump. They were willing to bring their two sides of the aisle along to vote on a long-term government funding bill that would include reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (which had lapsed back in September), a fix to immigration law to allow the Dreamers to stay in the country, funding for Trump’s stupid wall, and a few tweaks to other parts of immigration law.
That’s two big things the Democrats wanted: CHIP and protections for the Dreamers. And two big things Republicans wanted: a long-term funding plan and the wall.
As we all remember, Trump torpedoed that bill because it let too many people from “shithole” countries in. Or maybe from “shithouse” countries. It’s unclear which he really said. Suffice it to say, he killed it.
After that deal died, Democrats and Republicans held dueling press conferences and released all kinds of statements and ultimately agreed to pass a short-term funding bill with no immigration provisions. But it did include a six-year authorization for CHIP. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to come back to the Dreamers by February 8, when the new funding bill expires.
No one knows if he’ll actually do that. Probably not.
Meanwhile, today, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the provision to fund the wall is a non-starter and Democrats no longer support it. It has no path to passage.
So, let’s take a moment to tally up the score, shall we?
Democrats wanted CHIP and protection for Dreamers. We got CHIP.
Republicans wanted a long term spending bill and a wall. They got neither.
In terms of real policymaking, Democrats are ahead here.
The optics of the next battle are interesting now. The fate of the next funding extension is tied exclusively to the fate of the Dreamers. If Republicans refuse to deal with that issue, they get nothing. No wall, no funding bill. Instead they get another shutdown that potentially lasts longer than a weekend. Government services screech to a halt or near-halt, active duty military don’t get paychecks, and every newscast will be filled with polling data showing how much popular support there is for the Dreamers. Congressional Republicans will be in the position to get what they want by doing the thing that literally everybody except Trump and that Stephen Miller guy wants to see done. Hell, Democrats might even be generous enough to come back to the table to talk about the stupid wall. All Republicans would have to do is the very popular, morally correct thing to do. If they don’t do it and the government stays shuttered? Well, we all know whose fault that will be.
And while all this is going on, 9 million kids have their insurance guaranteed for the next six years.
I think Democrats have some clear paths to a victory here. We’re either going to get a fix for the Dreamers or we’re going to get crystal clear evidence that Congressional Republicans hate the Dreamers and would happily deport them all. The campaign ads write themselves.
We’re playing a shitty hand of political cards right now but I think we might be playing them pretty well. We’ll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.