Blame game boils over in shutdown fight

Blame game boils over in shutdown fight
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Lawmakers in both parties are fighting hard for an edge in the blame game over the government shutdown, courting public opinion that may be critical in ending the impasse.

Republicans are branding it the “Schumer Shutdown,” in reference to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.), and think they have a strong hand because Senate Democrats rejected a bill passed by the House that would have kept the government open.


In arguments echoed by the White House and Speaker’s office, they say Democrats are holding the government hostage.

The Democratic argument, pointedly raised by Schumer on Saturday, is all about President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE.

Democrats can't negotiate a deal with a president who changes his position from hour to hour and is beholden to right-wing supporters above his own priorities, he says. If the shutdown continues, Schumer says it is because of Trump.

The finger-pointing comes as a deal to reopen the government is nowhere in sight, and a routine House procedural vote on Saturday devolved into a bitter partisan fight over whether a Republican poster adhered to the chamber’s rules.

There is reason for both sides to think their arguments can carry the day.

A CNN poll shows that 31 percent of Americans would hold congressional Democrats responsible for the shutdown, while 26 percent would fault Republican lawmakers and 21 percent would blame Trump.

Even before the government officially shut down in the early hours of Saturday morning, both sides were eager to pin the blame on the other.

Dozens of Republican offices have blasted out press releases about “Schumer’s shutdown,” while GOP leaders ticked off a list of newspaper headlines on Saturday that said Senate Democrats blocked a stopgap funding bill on Friday night.

“The New York Times, not exactly the bastion of right-wing sentiment, put the blame exactly where it belongs,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.

The GOP messaging strategy has centered on how the funding lapse will hurt the military. Republican leaders and lawmakers have been saying all week that Democrats are prioritizing immigrants who came to the country illegally over the troops and holding the military hostage to their immigration demands — a sentiment they believe will be a winning message with the American public.

The CNN poll shows that 56 percent of Americans think that keeping the government open is more important than coming up with a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Can’t let that happen!”

Republicans claim Senate Democrats are the only ones who have the power to reopen the government because they are the ones who rejected a four-week funding bill late Friday night. The measure, which would have kept the government's lights on through Feb. 16, failed a procedural hurdle in a 50-49 vote, with the help of four Republicans.

“Senate Democrats shut down this government, and now Senate Democrats need to open this government back up,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) said Saturday.

Early Sunday, the president said in a tweet that Senate Republicans should trigger the so-called "nuclear option" if the stalemate continues and pass a long-term budget with 51 votes.

A website dubbed “Schumer Shutdown” also sprang up this week, displaying a countdown clock to show exactly how long the government has remained closed.

“'Schumer Shutdown' has a nice little ring to it,” Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE, Trump’s budget director, said during a press briefing on Saturday afternoon.

But it was actually the hashtag that included the commander in chief’s name — #TrumpShutdown — that shot to the top of Twitter’s “Worldwide” trending topics on Friday night.

Democrats have spent the past 24 hours putting the blame squarely on Trump’s shoulders, saying his constantly shifting positions have made it impossible to strike a deal to keep the government open.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Schumer went into detail about how he met with Trump at the White House on Friday and offered to give him full border wall funding in exchange for a DACA fix — which he said the president was open to.

But a few hours later, Schumer says, the negotiations fell apart when John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, Trump’s chief of staff, said they needed more concessions in the deal.

“Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Schumer said.

Schumer’s tale about his meeting with Trump is similar to last week, when Trump rejected a bipartisan DACA deal from a group of senators, even though the president suggested days earlier he would sign anything they put on his desk.

“The shelf life of these understandings and agreements is minutes at this point. How do you negotiate? What do you do?” said Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiHouse subcommittee presses Johnson & Johnson on plan to offload baby powder liabilities Overnight Health Care: CDC encourages schools to open for in-person learning, masks optional | President directs moves on drug importation, calls for plan to lower drug prices | FDA asks for federal investigation of Alzheimer's drug approval Bipartisan lawmakers press NIH for info on deleted coronavirus data MORE (D-Ill.).

Democrats have also hammered the point that Republicans control all three levers of power in Washington, and that this is the first modern shutdown to occur under a fully unified government.

They point out that legislation needs 60 votes in the Senate, so Republican leaders can’t cut Democrats out of the bill-writing process and then complain when it doesn’t have their support for passage.

While Republicans have been generally unified in assigning blame to the Democrats, at least some Republicans are worried that the Democratic arguments could stick.

And the White House has taken steps to ensure that the impacts of a shutdown are minimal, which could help Republicans escape some of the heat if the responsibility winds up on their doorstep.

“There’s a lot of blame to go around on all sides. We’re in the majority, we control all three branches,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “So we’re going to get blamed, whether we deserve it or not. Just the way it is.”

--This report was updated on Jan. 21 at 8:00 a.m.