Time for a shutdown update, after a day with a fair amount of action but no visible progress toward an agreement.
The basics: On the first day of the 116th Congress, while the debate over President Donald Trump’s border wall continues. Senate Republicans said they wouldn’t take up anything unless Trump promised to sign it, including bills that had already passed easily before the shutdown. And Trump himself? As usual, he was all over the place.
The interesting questions on Thursday were in the House.
On the one hand, Republicans weren’t wrong to call the Democrats’ actions a publicity stunt. Not that there’s anything wrong with publicity stunts – that’s what everyone does even during serious negotiations, and certainly what they do if there’s nothing constructive happening. But Democrats brought up their two bills knowing that they were going nowhere.
On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out once again that this really is Trump’s shutdown. Think about what the Democrats have refrained from doing:
- After they won a House majority in November, they could’ve refused to negotiate on any appropriations bills until after the new Congress came in on Jan. 3 and their bargaining strength increased. Instead, they negotiated a deal that passed the Senate and was ready to become law until Trump changed his mind and decided to seek a shutdown.
- In late December, following that impasse, they again could’ve rejected the deal they’d reached and waited until they had a majority. They did not.
- Once Jan. 3 came around without any progress, they certainly could’ve declared the old negotiations void and reopened the bills that had previously been settled. Yet again, they didn’t; despite their new leverage, they were willing to live with what the Senate had compromised on back in December.
Democrats haven’t been doing all this because they’re nice. They negotiated a pretty good deal despite a unified Republican government, and probably couldn’t improve on it much by holding out now. But that’s sort of the point: They’re willing to accept the results of fair negotiations, while Trump is shutting down the government because he didn’t get what he wanted, even though he certainly doesn’t appear to have much bargaining power.
In fact, while Democrats were unified on the two key votes on Thursday, Republicans showed signs of division. Five of them voted with the Democrats on one bill and seven on the other. At least one Republican senator, Cory Gardner, said he would support a clean bill to reopen the government. If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did allow a vote, the Democrats’ bills would probably pass (although neither chamber appears to have the votes to override a presidential veto).
Source: Democrats Are Unified on the Shutdown. Republicans Aren’t. – Bloomberg