Democrats Remain United Behind Cynical Schumer Shutdown

In the waning hours of Friday evening, Senate Republicans tried one last procedural vote that would have allowed a vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government for 30 days. It failed, falling nine votes short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Democrats’ filibuster. And with that, the government shut down.

This is a crisis. A purely manufactured crisis designed by Democrats to maximize their political advantage. In their minds a government shutdown is a win-win. It’s a win for their base, who will believe that Senate Democrats finally grew a spine and are warming to their calls to #resist anything that Republicans hope to achieve.

“No one wants to conduct themselves in a way that you are running scared and being a milquetoast moderate in a way that dampens the enthusiasm,” Brian Fallon, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, told the Associated Press.

And in Democrats’ minds its a win for voters generally, who look at Republican’s control of Congress and the White House and naturally blame them for the unpopular shutdown. Sadly, the polling somewhat supports this gamble. A Washington Post-ABC News poll out Friday showed 48 percent of Americans said they’d blame the shutdown on President Trump and Republicans, while 28 percent faulted the Democrats.

Taken together, Democrats engaged in a low-risk, high-reward game in which they’d tie a completely unrelated DACA extension to a must-pass funding bill. Never mind that there is a policy-focused negotiation to be had that would compassionately address the future of the Dreamers. Democrats didn’t want a negotiation. They wanted capitulation. Anything but a complete victory during the shutdown negotiations risked having to share credit for a DACA fix and/or being caught in a losing political debate over popular tradeoffs, such as additional border security.

As of now, it appears that Democrats are not backing away from their hardline stance. In some ways they can’t. They’ve already made promises not to pass another continuing resolution without a DACA fix, which means that they’d face the wrath of the activist left if they backed down now. As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell astutely observed: “I feel bad for [Sen. Chuck Schumer’s] own members. He’s painted them into a corner.”

The progressive crowd is not exactly known for their coolheaded sensibilities. In fact, many seemed to be actively cheering for a prolonged shutdown so that the Senate minority could extract more concessions. David Faris writes for The Week:

“Voters are unlikely to care in November about a 10-day government shutdown. But if the impasse stretches into weeks or months and the economy begins to falter, you can bet that panicked Republicans will come crawling back.

And that’s where Democrats will really be able to twist the knife. Here’s what they should say: The compromise that Chuck and Nancy offered you, the one that gave the president most of what he wanted and asked for and that you tossed in the trash? That’s a dead letter. These are our terms. You can sign right here.”

This shouldn’t be about poll numbers. Or what Democrats’ base wants. Or whether “voters care.” Or whether this is a way to achieve maximum leverage. Funding the government is bigger than all of those things. It’s about Congress fulfilling their basic job to keep the government funded. Reauthorizing CHIP so that poor children don’t lose their health insurance.  And working towards a permanent bipartisan solution for Dreamers.

“Our administration worked in good faith to put a bipartisan deal on the table that would strengthen our borders, end chain migration, eliminate the visa lottery, and deal compassionately with DACA,” Pence said in a statement. “But rather than solve problems, Democratic leadership preferred a shutdown that has dangerous consequences for our national defense. Their action tonight — or lack thereof — is unconscionable.”

They’ll soon have a chance to rectify their mistake. Leader McConnell vowed on the Senate floor on Saturday to take up a new spending plan on Monday morning that would keep the government open through February 8. Unsurprisingly, Democrats, who prefer negotiating during a shutdown, are already messaging against it. The “Schumer shutdown” thus appears likely to continue.