The Republican-led House did their part, passing a bill on Thursday that would keep the government funded until February 16. They even included a few policy riders, such as a long-term extension of the low-income children’s health insurance program (CHIP), to sweeten the pot in order to woo Democrats into supporting its passage.
Despite it all, there was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, classing up the proceedings by describing the bill thusly: “It’s like giving you a bowl of doggy-doo, put a cherry on top and call it a chocolate sundae.”
But what provision in the bill are they opposed to exactly? Where, as Pelosi would say, is the “doggy-doo”? Simply put, there isn’t any. Neither Pelosi nor any Democrat actually objects to what’s in the bill. They’re sole concern is that a legislative fix for DACA is not included in the bill.
Why should it be? What does finding a solution for Dreamers have to do with funding to keep the government open?
Answer: Nothing. The only reason that DACA is part of the conversation at all is because Democrats want leverage in the negotiations. There is a bipartisan fix to be had for DACA, one that includes everything Democrats want—a path to legal status for the Dreamers—as well as concessions for what Republicans want—stronger borders and changes to the legal immigration system. But there is plenty of time to work that out over the next six weeks. What there is not time for is political brinksmanship. As Marc Thiessen writes for the Washington Post:
This is a manufactured crisis. DACA protections don’t begin expiring until March 5, so there is plenty of time to cut an immigration deal. However, the short-term funding bill before Congress includes a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to provide health care for poor children. So if Democrats shut down the government in a fit of pique over what Trump reportedly said, nothing will happen to the “dreamers,” but poor children will lose their health insurance. …
Trump has indicated he is willing to sign legislation that would give legal status to 11 million illegal immigrants. If Democrats want to help those people, then they need to quit the theatrics and start doing their jobs.
There is a path in which everyone wins, both the poor children who have been waiting for a CHIP extension and the immigrants waiting on a DACA fix. But, as Republicans have implored Democrats, it first requires putting politics aside and keeping the government funded.
“Senator Schumer, do not shut down the federal government,” Speaker Ryan pleaded. “Do not jeopardize funding for our military and for our national security. Do not jeopardize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It is risky. It is reckless. And it is wrong.”
No matter. Senate Democrats claimed Thursday that they were united in opposition to the measure, which would require 60 votes to break because they also decided to filibuster.
Senate Republicans plan to test that unity. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced that the Senate would remain in session throughout the weekend if the bill does not pass on Friday night. And that Republicans would bring the bill up again and again, until Democrats come to their senses.
“We should all plan to stay through this weekend if Senate Democrats follow through and are willing to shut down the government and the Children’s Health Insurance Program because they have yet to conclude a deal on DACA,” McConnell wrote in a letter to members. “This is an irresponsible position to take as everything from our pay for our military to processing social security checks will be affected.”
It needn’t have come to this. Everyone agrees that DACA needs to be addressed. But there is absolutely no reason, save a desperate attempt to maximize political leverage, for it to be included in an effort to keep the government open. But now, with the government on the brink of shutting down, is not the time for political stunts.
Photo Credit: Christian Heilmann. See more of his work HERE