Despite Appearances, Democrats May Come Out Ahead in Shutdown Fight

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Image Clipped from CBS News.

(Since this piece was published–in a cowardly act–Senate Democrats retracted their push for DACA and Dreamers’ rights in future negotiation demands. As such, I renounce all the grace I gave them in this article, an instead add: this may be the moment that cost them the 2018 Midterms.)

The shutdown of the U.S. federal government seems set to end.

At least, as of 5:24 p.m. on Monday, January 22, within 72 hours of the debacle’s beginning, that’s where things seem to stand. My first reaction was, admittedly disgust–disgust the Republicans would get what they want, disgust the Democrats would cave so fast.

After all, Republicans managed to keep a vote on a Supreme Court justice nominee happening for a year when there was a Democrat sitting in the White House. They managed to play the game all the way through to the next president–so they could control House, Senate and White House, and thereby guarantee a sweep of whomsoever they wished. Gorsuch came of that. Gorsuch, and a disservice to the methods of representative rule.

This is not that case. On its head, as I said, Democrats caved to pressure within 72 hours and allowed for a temporary measure of government funding to push the can down the road until February 8. This refunds the government, gets people to stop using the military for ammunition for a bit, and gives politicians more time for debate.

I know what you’re thinking: oh gods, MORE debate? Can’t they come to a conclusion?

The short answer? No. Democrats want to protect DACA–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s popular with their base and it’s just solid humanitarianism. Republicans chose to hold funding for CHIP kids–the Children’s Health Insurance Program–hostage as a means of forcing Democrats to abandon immigrants and DACA.

So how will this be different in February?

The Democrats won this round, even if it doesn’t look it at first glance. Once my fury had subsided, I realized this means that CHIP is now funded for a full six years. It’s passed, done, off the table. Those kids are no longer held hostage, and in so doing, Republicans have lost their big leverage. For those who think the military still represents leverage in the debate, just remember: Democrats attempted to pass a bill during the shutdown TO keep the military funded. They’re fools if they don’t consistently remind the public that it was Republicans who torpedoed those efforts, and most importantly, Donald Trump who shot down just about every attempt at a moderate solution that could have avoided the shutdown in the first place.

So if the moderates fail to get a veto proof bill rammed through the Congress in February? Well then, we’re right back at a shutdown–and this time, Republicans won’t have sick kids hanging in the balance for pressure. It gives Democrats even more of an opportunity for a longer shutdown, if Republicans won’t listen to reason. After all, DACA–Democrats’ main sticking point here–is still on the books until March. They can kick the can down the road for a whole month before they lose what they are pushing for.

In the meantime, under court order, DACA recipients cannot be deported purely for being here on DACA grounds. Now, ICE has been finding insidious ways of deporting people for other reasons, but they cannot deport specifically on those grounds as long as DACA remains on the books.

The left side of the aisle can blast Democrats for failing to stand up and deliver a scathing, “To hell with you,” to the Republicans in the Senate and Trump in the White House. It can blast them as having no backbone.

There are plenty of reasons I might agree with such statements on the day to day, but this isn’t one of those cases. This might actually be the smart play, if not the most aggressive. Of course the Republicans are unlikely to keep their promises to discuss DACA again during the February 8 deadline. Democrats know that. But there’s something they have to tiptoe around. After all, there are confines to this play: remember, McConnell can still detonate the 60 vote requirement in the Senate. Trump is urging him to do it. Republicans on the whole probably don’t WANT to do it, because it’s a short term win that might backfire spectacularly for them after the 2018 Midterms. Democrats could get that away from him, and while they don’t have a history of playing as rough with the nuclear option as his people have, they could, and use it to decimate anything Trump tries to ram through in the future.

So in essence? No, this is probably not the shutdown deal any of us want. It’s far passed time to get a long term solution for the issue of funding this nation, but this opens a lot more opportunities for Democrats to come out ahead.

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