Mitch McConnell Ups the Stakes in the Government Shutdown Game

Caricature by DonkeyHotey

Caricature by DonkeyHotey

Over the weekend, lost in the morass of BuzzFeed’s epic self-buggery and the feeding frenzy that threatened to devour several young Catholic high school boys and make a martyr out of a professional provocateur, President Trump made an offer to the Democrats to end the budget impasse.

Trump proposed offering a reprieve on his attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations, in exchange for building hundreds of miles of barriers on the southern U.S. border and hiring thousands of new law enforcement agents to be deployed there.

“This is a common-sense compromise both parties should embrace,” Trump said. He added: “The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let it happen.”

The reaction was predictable:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed the proposal as a “non-starter” and vowed that Democrats would pass legislation in the coming week to reopen the government, putting the onus on the Republican-led Senate to follow suit.

“The president must sign these bills to reopen government immediately and stop holding the American people hostage with this senseless shutdown,” Pelosi said. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said he opposed the plan.

The reasons why the Democrats, particularly Pelosi, won’t take this up as a starting point for negotiations are obvious. The media and the Democrats have convinced each other that Trump is losing this. While it’s true than he can lose this by backing down, opinion polls don’t really have an effect on that win/loss. For instance, in the aftermath of the 1995 shutdown, the GOP picked up 2 Senate seats and kept all their House seats. In 2014, after the 2013 shutdown, the GOP gained 9 Senate and 13 House seats despite the media mewling about the GOP being blamed. Pelosi has internalized the conflict into what is sort of a penis-measuring contest with Trump. She tried to embarrass him (puh-leeze, after the Stormy Daniels affair I’d think any sane person would have realized that is not easily accomplished) by cancelling the State of the Union and found herself doing the walk-of-shame from the bus to her office when he cancelled her junket. She’s made personally besting Trump her objective here and being personally invested in a negotiation for anything is not a good position to be in. Finally, the Democrats no more want a solution to the DACA issue than the GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood. Both are worth much more in fundraising and in base mobilization than they are worth as solved problems.

Early in 2018, facing another government shutdown, President Trump tried to offer the Democrats a DACA solution. It became very obvious at that time that no one in the Democrat party really wanted that issue to go away.

How well this works remains to be seen. There is pressure on new House Democrats to fix DACA and none of them have made beating Trump on the budget fight a symbol of their own masculinity. The fact that the shutdown has a greater impact of Democrat constituencies than it does on the GOP. Now Mitch McConnell has entered the fight:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, plans to bring up legislation as early as Tuesday that would wrap Mr. Trump’s proposal into a broader package that would include billions of dollars in disaster relief and immediately reopen the government, an aide said. The move is intended to ratchet up pressure on Democrats, who have insisted they will not negotiate with Mr. Trump until the shutdown is over.

“President Trump has put forward a serious and reasonable offer to reform parts of our broken immigration system and reopen government,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, said on Twitter. “The moment now turns to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The country is watching.”

I think this is going to be a tough vote for a lot of Democrats. Odds are that when a real court hears the silly injunction ordered by #Resistance judges that DACA will be dead. Even without that, there is a lawsuit brewing in the Fifth Circuit to have DACA ruled unconstitutional much as its demented sibling, DAPA, was.

If this bill passes the Senate, then Nancy Pelosi will be in a very awkward position. She either has to spurn an offer that gives relief to DREAMers or she can continue to act out on her snit.

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