Three cheers for Chuck Schumer.
In a brazen act of political self-harm, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer convinced his Democrat colleagues to shut down the government just long enough to get publicly blamed before agreeing to reopen the government for absolutely nothing in exchange, thereby demoralizing his base and emboldening Republicans. Bravo, Sen. Schumer. Bravo.
With Federal appropriation authority set to run out at midnight on Friday, January 19, Republicans offered Democrats a deal: fund the government for four weeks through a continuing resolution (CR in Washington speak), fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, and afterwards they would work on an immigration reform bill that would include a provision allowing illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children, known as Dreamers, to stay in this country legally (DACA legislation). Democrats said no, they would not vote for any CR that did not include a DACA provision.
In the House, the Republican majority voted for their bill and sent it to the Senate, where the CR achieved a majority of yes votes but was filibustered by Senate Democrats. Because of this, the government shut down.
The Democrats expected to win this shutdown fight, probably because they’ve won every other shutdown fight. But they couldn’t agree on their political messaging. Some Democrats said Republicans were to blame for the shutdown because they control the House, Senate, and White House, and hoped no one would ask about the filibuster. Some Democrats admitted they were responsible for the shutdown and it was worth it to protect the Dreamers. Many Democrats said both – Republicans are responsible for the shutdown and Democrats will keep the government closed until they get a DACA bill.
By the second day of the shutdown, Democrats knew they had gambled poorly and were looking for a way out. Chuck Schumer sat down with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work out a compromise. We have recently uncovered behind the scenes video of McConnell’s reaction to Schumer’s compromise proposal:
In the end, Congress voted to reopen the government on Monday with the only difference between the deal offered on Friday being that the CR lasts three weeks instead of four.
Many Democrats are now disillusioned, wondering what they fought for and if their party will truly fight for anything. Republicans remember that feeling from when they were in the minority, but are now celebrating a quick and complete political victory orchestrated by none other than Mitch McConnell.
It was a fun weekend.
With budget authority set to expire in two and a half weeks, we could experience deja vu before we know it. Let’s see how Schumer handles the next budget vote.