Yes, yes, we understand there is plenty of blame to go around, and we could have easily written this essay assigning the blame to President Trump. But that’s not where we think blame belongs, although neither Party comes to this impasse with clean hands.
There’s no question, having watched this debacle unfold, blame can easily be envisioned in the eye of the beholder. But here’s the thing, there was really nothing substantive in the deal to keep the government open that the Democrats couldn’t have lived with. The Democrats could have easily pocketed everything that was offered in the spending measure to keep the government open, such as a commitment to resolve DACA by March 5th, as well as a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Instead, they put DACA in jeopardy as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They could have easily worked for a final DACA deal during the normal function of government, and the odds are that the Administration would have worked with them. Instead, the Democrats opted to shut down the government, confident the public will blame the President and the Republicans. We’re not so sure. There was simply nothing in the proposed legislation to fund the government with which the Democrats fundamentally disagree.
So, this is a pointless shutdown of the government. The Democrat’s talking point, which they have been reciting at every opportunity, is apt to wear thin very quickly. Schumer and company are arguing (to a fault) that this is the first time in history that there has been a government shutdown when one party has controlled all three branches of government. It is a dramatic, but also a meaningless talking point. Given that the Senate rules require a 60-vote majority to keep the government open, the Republicans cannot keep the government open without the support of Democrats. People understand that, and we think public opinion could turn around faster than you can say “only eight percent of the people have any confidence in Congress.”
The Democrats are counting on the fact that most Americans want to solve the DACA problem once and for all. We doubt, however, that most Americans will buy into the proposition that DACA must be solved right now, and at all costs, even at the cost of closing the government. The Democrats are risking turning the public sour on a winning issue by overplaying their hand. The Democrats are betting that they can close down the government with impunity over the issue of protecting the so-called Dreamers and, we think, that may be a really poor bet.
We think protecting the Dreamers is the humane and decent thing to do. Shutting down the government, however, is not the way to accomplish that. The strategy of using a government shutdown creates a real dilemma for most Americans. Most Americans, we think, will assign a higher priority to keep the government (which they pay for) open than they will to immediately protect the Dreamers.
The public should not have been put in this position, and they may very well punish the Senators who decided to close the government over this issue. Congress had, and has, the option of funding the government now and dealing with DACA by the March 5th extension provided by President Trump. As Bill Scher of Politico observed, “if you deny passage of a reasonable bill to keep the government open, one without poison pills, then you are responsible for the resulting shutdown. Period. End of story.”
The vast majority of Democrats voted to shut down the government. They think, a chorus of their members reciting talking points about how Republicans control all three branches of government will immunize them from blame. We doubt it. The Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, should have focused on the budget bill solely as a spending measure, not as a tactical opportunity to legislate the resolution of an issue that ultimately needs to be addressed as part of long-overdue comprehensive immigration reform.
Many Americans are confused as to what DACA is and isn’t. DACA confers very few entitlements other than the right to temporarily remain and work in the United States without fear of deportation. It is little more than a temporary work permit. Only immigrants who had lived in the U.S. since 2007, who came before age 16 and who were younger than 31 on June 15th, 2012 were eligible to apply for DACA. Today DACA provides only a temporary reprieve for these individuals because they must apply to renew their DACA status every two years.
DACA does not make recipients eligible for any other federal benefits, and DACA recipients must still sign up for selective service if they’re men between the ages of 18 and 25. They cannot obtain federal student loans, nor can they apply for Obamacare.
We also think the government shutdown may exacerbate another major issue. While an estimated 1.7 million people were eligible to apply for DACA protection, fewer than half – about 800,000 – actually registered for the program. The estimated 900,000 who, perhaps, were afraid to register or who didn’t trust the political process, are consigned to permanent limbo or eventual deportation, and have little hope, if any, of following in the footsteps of those who did apply. After this funding debacle, we think the people will have little appetite to even consider giving them another opportunity in the future to find even temporary legal status.
All of this, for political gamesmanship.