A government shutdown is looming. Unless Congress passed a debt-ceiling increase and a continuing resolution by December 9, the federal government will not have enough money to fund a range of government programs.
The disagreement between Republicans and Democrats is over a fix for the so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. But Republicans have long been at work on a legislative fix for Dreamers, in no small part because of President Trump’s actions to force lawmakers to come up with a permanent solution that includes border security and enforcement provisions.
But Democrats want to own the issue, both because they want to be seen as delivering on a legislative win for Hispanic voters, and they want to control the terms of the fix (read: excluding Republican must-haves like a more secure border). So rather than negotiate with Republicans on a bipartisan solution to the Dreamer issue, Democrats are instead demanding that it be included in the upcoming spending bill.
The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan report:
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Senate Democrat and a lead negotiator on spending matters, said he is encouraging his colleagues to join him in blocking spending legislation if the legal status of “dreamers” isn’t resolved. President Trump announced in September that he will end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in early March, putting hundreds of thousands of dreamers — immigrants brought to the United States as children — at risk of deportation early next year. …
By vowing to withhold his support for a spending measure absent an immigration deal, Durbin is in a camp with four other Democratic senators, all of whom are potential presidential hopefuls, and dozens of House Democrats.
His posture has the potential to deepen an emerging rift among congressional Democrats, since he is going further than other top leaders.
Those “top leaders” aren’t exactly helping matters either. Earlier this week Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pulled out of a negotiation session with President Trump and top Republicans.
“We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues,” Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “Democrats are putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics. There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”
As promised, Republicans showed up to begin working through the particulars of a plan with the president. Democrats, by contrast, were represented by two empty chairs.
“They’ve been all talk and they’ve been no action, and now it’s even worse,” Trump said. “Now it’s not even talk.”
Their unwillingness to talk is a departure from previous years, when they were quick to cast blame on Republicans for refusing to sign off on continuing resolutions without certain concessions.
“I’ll give you the basic line,” Schumer said of the partial government shutdown in 2013. “The basic line is: No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold millions of people hostage. That’s what the other side is doing. That’s wrong and we can’t give in to that.”
Nancy Pelosi went further with the rhetoric, calling it an “unthinkable tactic to use,” and labeling Republicans “legislative arsonists” who are “there to burn down what we should be building up.”
Now, with the shoe on the other foot and Democrats in the minority, Democrats apparently have no problem being the hostage takers and the legislative arsonists. They are demanding the ability to declare themselves the protectors of the Dreamers, and they’re willing to shut down the government in the name of partisan politicking.