After days of Senate Democrats and Republicans debating a spending bill, the government shut down at midnight this past Friday.
The argument was not in the spending bill itself, but in the attachments.
Democrats were pushing Republicans and the Trump Administration to fund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA as it is more commonly called. This essential program protects over 700,000 immigrants who came to America as children, through no choice of their own.
DACA has been an issue for Republicans and the White House since before Trump took office. Yet, Democrats and Republicans have not reached a bipartisan legislative answer.
The White House has rejected various bipartisan proposals on the spending bill. On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated on the Senate floor, “During the meeting, in exchange for strong DACA protections, I reluctantly put the border wall on the table for the discussion. Even that was not enough to entice the president to finish the deal.”
Democrats are the ones who want to promote bipartisanship in Congress, but House and Senate Republicans are joining in the White House’s effort to have it their way or no way.
The Democrats were left with no choice. There was no compromise. There was no bipartisanship. There was no civility.
Eventually, on Monday, January 22, the government reopened. The terms of this bill were both simple and confusing at the same time: the government shall be funded for only three more weeks, the Senate Majority Leader will introduce an undisclosed immigration bill on the Senate floor, and fully fund CHIP for six years.
The funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, is a huge win for Democrats, as the program was defunded for 114 days under Republican control. However, the introduction of an undisclosed immigration bill has the left worried.
Although this may seem as though the Democrats gave in to the Republican and White House demands, it is quite the opposite.
Remember, the government in only funded for three more weeks, and if Mitch McConnell does not introduce an immigrating bill that the Democrats agree is not sufficient, they have the votes to withhold funding.
The notion given by many top Republicans and even the President himself that “Democrats are holding the government hostage for an unrelated immigration bill” is completely absurd.
The government shutdown of 2013 was caused by Republicans tying the full repeal of Obamacare with the spending bill.
The Democrats can, and will, withhold funding for the government if the immigration bill does not meet the needs of the American people. Now, do not confuse this with holding the government hostage.
Congressional Democrats are forcing the Republicans to finally create a (hopefully) bipartisan fix to the immigration issue when Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have previously refused to do.
Shutting down the government is a last-resort option for Democrats or Republicans as the party shutting down the government typically weakens as the other party strengthens.
I do believe that if the “hostage-taking” governing system becomes the norm in Congress, Democrats will be blamed and rightfully so. They must not create a precedent of shutting down when the sides of the aisle don’t agree.
What is important is that Democrats have not lost their leverage to hold Republicans and the President accountable in Washington.