Democrats shut government down, but they're still struggling to explain why

Democrats shut government down, but they're still struggling to explain why
© Greg Nash

While they may not be able to admit it publicly (or even to themselves), it’s clear that the Democrats have deliberately manufactured a government shutdown. Banking on a complicit media and a confused electorate, they have now fully embraced a political tactic they decried for eight years under President Obama.

Charges that this shutdown is the fault of Republicans, or that Democrats haven’t been part of the negotiations leading to the spending bill they rejected, are not true. Instead what’s obvious is that Democrats methodically engineered a situation where the government could shut down over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Here are the steps they employed to get us here.

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Step one: Democrats have yet to agree to a long-term spending deal that would allow Congress to appropriate funds on an annual basis instead of passing short-term continuing resolutions. This fiscal year began three and half months ago, and under ordinary circumstances the funding question would have been resolved long ago, and the opportunity to shut down the government wouldn’t even exist.

 

However, Democrats blocked a necessary increase in Pentagon funding in a naked attempt to leverage national security to win more funding for domestic programs. For that reason, Congress passed three short-term bills. Democrats blocked passage of the fourth.

Step two: Democrats rejected numerous offers to get just want they want, which is a permanent solution for DACA. While DACA is not in any way related to government spending, the Democrats have taken spending hostage in an attempt to force Republicans to deal on DACA.

There’s just one problem: Republicans are perfectly willing to deal on DACA. Trump and even the most conservative Republican leaders have proposed a true compromise and even written legislation that reflects it. Reps. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTrump: GOP needs Dem votes for immigration bills, complains Dems 'won't vote for anything' House GOP leaders push immigration vote to next week GOP lawmaker calls on Trump to fire Stephen Miller MORE (R-Va.) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill The Hill's 12:30 Report Trump immigration comments spark chaos in GOP MORE (R-Texas) proposed legislation that grants permanent amnesty to DACA recipients, in addition to common-sense border security and enforcement provisions. Having rejected this proposal, Democrats are claiming they’ll block government funding until a more favorable compromise to them emerges.

Step three: The Democrats distracted from the reality of the negotiations by creating a media circus around a comment that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE allegedly made during a private meeting — a comment the president denies.

Step four: The Democrats have used the alleged comment to confuse people, charging that the president is a racist rather admitting the truth, which is that he sincerely wants a DACA deal. Otherwise, their manufactured shutdown wouldn’t make any sense at all in the face of a president who wants to give them what they want.

Step five: Having refused a long-term deal (step one), the Democrats then turned to refusing a short-term stopgap. This is the step that really brings the shutdown into play. The House proposed and passed a four-week continuing resolution that would have kept the government running while the two parties continued to hash out DACA and the long-term spending bill. Instead, Democrats rejected that offer of more time and instead opted to all discretionary spending lapse.

Step six: Democrats have cranked up the blame machine. Republicans have majorities in the House and in the Senate. This is a fact that Democrats believe makes them blameless in the Senate, but anyone who buys this line is ignorant of the Senate’s rules. Any spending bill must have 60 votes to pass the Senate. That means that while Republicans enjoy the majority, they don’t control the outcome by themselves.

Almost every Republican senator is ready to support a short-term spending bill. It is only the Democrat senators that are blocking its passage. If Republicans really did “control” the Senate, as Democrats are saying, the government would have remained open.

As has been the case in each and every policy debate so far, compromise between the parties has been elusive. A quick review of the facts reveals exactly why. Democrats, exerting the leverage they have over what can pass the Senate, will block any compromise. While feigning interest in a compromise, they continue to block any proposal that doesn’t give them exactly what they want and only what they want.

In short order, we’ll all find out whether the American people are clued in to this brand of brinksmanship.

Thomas Binion is the director of Congressional and Executive Branch Relations at The Heritage Foundation.