On the first day, there was resignation as Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a long-term spending deal, and the U.S. government spiraled into a shutdown for the first time since 2013.
On the second day, there was wheeling, some dealing, but yet more resignation as lawmakers conceded the lack of a deal agreeable to both sides.
On the third day, everyone threw up their hands and said, “Well, what about that first deal? That’s not too bad, especially if it only funds the government for three weeks instead of four. Yeah, let’s do that.”
So ended the government’s most recent foray into inefficacy. While it may have been spearheaded by a Congressional impasse, make no mistake: the blame for this debacle rests with all our country’s leaders, be they left, right or hiding in the Oval.
Perhaps the first bearers of blame are the Senate Democrats. It was these Dems who, when faced with the ultimatum of passing a short-term spending deal or shutting down the government, dutifully chose the latter.
It was, however, for a good cause in The Dreamers, those undocumented immigrants caught in legal limbo as the Trump administration simultaneously rescinds the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, yearns for Dreamers to stay in the country, and rebuffs any possible deal on the matter from Congress.
So, in a half-baffling, half-why-did-we-even-go-through-this-in-the-first-place move, enough Senate Dems joined with the GOP Monday to pass a short-term resolution that not only fails to address immigration at all, but also manages to be nearly identical to the original agreement Democrats said was untenable in the first place.
Sure, there were plenty of progressive senators who voted to continue the shutdown, but it doesn’t matter. There is no unified Democratic Party, only competing factions of left, more left and really left. The eventual passage of a short-term resolution, now with added hindsight, was more or less inevitable as long as a non-zero number of Democrats are up for reelection in ruby-red states. Thus the decision to trigger a shutdown anyway (and then give up after a weekend), seems less a 4-D chess move, and more Connect 4.
Then, there are the Republicans. On the one hand, they control all the levers of power in Washington and allowed a shutdown to happen anyway. On the other, senate Republicans would never have been able to pass a continuing budget resolution without Democratic support, so they cannot be the only ones to blame if we insist on playing the blame game (and, to be sure, we do).
But then there’s the curious case of CHIP, or the Children’s Health Care Program. The bill passed Monday night (and even the original funding bill that failed last Friday) contains six years of funding for a program that fills the gaps Medicaid can’t cover, and is indeed something the Democrats have been pining for since late last year when it became clear CHIP funding was going to run out in a number of states.
Republicans acted so shocked when Democrats turned their noses at that initial inclusion of CHIP funding in the original bill. The truth of the matter is that the GOP was always willing to play games with children’s health care if it meant they have a bargaining chip over Democrats. Hypocrisy manifest, it seems.
Though, in fairness, the GOP has found themselves between a rock and the White house, as President Donald Trump simply can’t make up his mind.
The DACA problem, if it really can be called a problem, is one that has unusually high public support. In a CBS News poll from last week, a staggering 87 percent of Americans (including 79 percent of Republicans) said they would support allowing those brought illegally into the country as children to stay in the U.S.
This is what those in the beltway call, “easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.”
And yet, the President, who has gone on record in support of letting Dreamers stay in the U.S., seems to want something that involves more use of the word “wall” (even if that wall is a fence). Thus came the shutdown meant to force Trump’s hand, force him to capitulate to something that he agreed to wanting just last year.
But the shutdown is over. The world turns on, and none of this really matters (score one for the nihilists, we suppose).
A shutdown this short has few of the consequences normally endemic to government shutdowns. It was in effect for just one work day (as government employees generally don’t work on the weekends), and it wouldn’t have affected essential government agencies (e.g. the military, TSA, or the self-funded Postal Service) anyway.
To be sure, it is a fairly inconvenient blow to those federal employees — the NASA engineer, the park ranger, the agriculture inspector — who had to show up Monday only to be told to go home, to be unpaid for a day of work that could have been crucial. But in the grand scheme of American life, the average Joe most likely won’t see the effects, so they most likely won’t care.
Thus, a three day shutdown will surely be forgotten. Data for the effects of government shutdowns on public opinion is in somewhat short supply, but in both 1995–1996 and 2013 (the three most recent shutdowns), the public outrage lasted about as long as a carnival goldfish. To assume that this will somehow be different this year — an election year — especially in the absence of any real, lasting and damaging consequences, is to put too much faith in the human memory.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.