Democrats Have Boxed Themselves Into a Losing Shutdown Strategy

Democrats face a choice: Do they go all in on their cynical strategy to further politicize a solution for the Dreamers and shut down the government? Or do they fold to their base and agree to continue working with Republicans on a true fix?

They don’t have long to decide. Funding for the government runs out in Friday, meaning that unless an agreement is reached before then all “non-essential” government employees and will go without pay and services provided by agencies will cease. In order to avert a shutdown Republicans have begrudgingly been working on yet another short-term spending measure to buy more time to negotiate.

Yesterday, Speaker Paul Ryan announced a plan that would fund the government and also include a number of sweeteners, such as delays to the implementation of Obamacare’s medical device tax and Cadillac tax, as well as six years’ worth of funding for CHIP.

“It’s a strategy that we think is a winning formula,” Womack said. “I mean, when you think about medical device tax, Cadillac tax, health insurance tax, voting against the CR, voting against funding our troops — those are really difficult positions to maintain if you’re the other side.”

But as Politico reports, Democrats are still catching heat from their activist base to not play ball:

[A]s the March 5 end date for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program looms, Democrats are under increased pressure to hold the line for a solution on immigration. Outside groups have urged Democrats to vote against any legislation until the matter is addressed, and some progressives are itching for a shutdown fight that forces Republicans to deal on immigration.

“Time’s up,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Tuesday, adding Republicans take for granted Democrats’ long-held conviction against shutting down the government.

But time isn’t up. Indeed months remain before the deadline for a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals issue must be reached. Whereas there is plenty of time to thoughtfully address DACA, without a short term budget fix, the government shutdown begins Friday.

“With no imminent deadline on immigration and with bipartisan talks well under way, there’s no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issue of illegal immigration,” McConnell said.

“Now that a federal judge has issued a nationwide injunction preventing the administration from winding down the Obama administration’s DACA program, it is clear that Congress has at least until March at a minimum, and possibly even longer, to reach a compromise,” McConnell said.

Deadline or not, many Democrats have already boxed themselves into a political outcome, publicly stating that they will not vote for any spending bill that doesn’t include their preferred DACA fix. They are bowing to the pressure of the activist elements of their party, largely fueled by the need to out-liberal one another to prove their progressive bonafides in the run up to 2020, and they are willing to risk a government shutdown, stop funding for troops, and pass up a long-term CHIP reauthorization in order to do it.

None of that appears to matter. They are not interested in negotiating on a bipartisan solution for the Dreamers because they are not interested in concessions, such as funding for enhanced border security and changes to the legal immigration system, that Americans want and Republicans are fighting for. This strategy is not designed to help Dreamers, it’s designed to help fortify Democrats’ message of #resistance among their base. 

“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway,” President Barack Obama told Republicans,” or just because there’s a law there that you don’t like.”

Democrats would be wise to take their former president’s advice.