I am starting this column Jan. 22. This evening, President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution that ended a partial shutdown of the federal government that lasted three days. The CR allows Congress additional time to agree on funding of the government for the current fiscal year. The events and decisions that produced this shutdown, and the resulting harsh consequences, reflect what happens when political maneuvering lays waste to reason.
In the space allotted, I can only scratch the surface in detailing the negative impacts of this shutdown. The one most often mentioned is that active duty military personnel would not be paid during the shutdown; however, they were required to continue working. Picture the military members deployed to the Middle East, where their lives are in danger every day, around-the-clock. Many of them have families in America who depend on paydays being honored. Add to these the other dedicated Americans who risk their very lives and endure all the tremendous demands of military service. The image is one of dedicated Americans being irresponsibly and unfairly penalized.
Apparently, as is explained later, there are politicians and other Americans who place greater value on illegal immigrants than on these patriots. Anybody in this group should immediately see the movie “12 Strong.”
Beyond military personnel, thousands of civilian federal employees were furloughed without pay. Legislative action will be required for these employees to be paid for any work time missed because of the shutdown. Surprisingly, members of Congress receive their pay during a shutdown.
The negative impact of this shutdown extends far beyond the couple of instances addressed above. Given this tremendous negative impact, the burning question is why anybody would cause a shutdown when doing so seriously adversely affects hundreds of thousands of Americans. The only possible explanation that I can identify is that Democrats believed they could, through a shutdown, gain some political advantage over Republicans. I contend that this was political maneuvering by Democrats and that their actions laid waste to reason.
Granted, it is totally unacceptable that, year after year, Congress fails to complete the budget and appropriations process on time and ends up doing CRs. However, Democratic failure to sufficiently support passage of the CR that would have prevented this latest shutdown does not pass the reason test.
The road to this shutdown started when Democrats insisted on adding provisions to the CR that would allow Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program participants to remain in this country. The estimate is 800,000 participants. An article by Katie Heinrich and Daniel Arkin, titled “What Is DACA? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Program Trump Is Ending,” explains DACA as follows:
“President Barack Obama created DACA through a 2012 executive order. The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. Applicants cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.”
On Sept. 5, 2017, Trump’s administration announced the cancellation of the DACA program but gave Congress six months to pass legislation that would provide a permanent fix for the situation addressed by the program. That means Congress has until March 5, 2018, to act. No new DACA applications or renewals were to be taken during the sixmonth period. However, a federal judge in California ruled that the administration must continue accepting renewal applications. That is being done.
The CR in question had to do with funding the government. Addressing DACA is not a funding issue, but Democrats insisted on including DACA provisions in this CR. A similar situation occurred in 2013 and resulted in a 16-day shutdown of the federal government. Ian McCullough, in an article titled “Why Did the U.S. Government Shut Down in October 2013?” summarizes how the 2013 shutdown came about. He writes that after failing to block passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in 2010 and not being able to repeal the legislation during 2010-13, elements of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives tried another approach. McCullough says they first “attached a provision to a spending bill that required eliminating funding for the implementation of the PPACA in order to fund the rest of the U.S. Federal Government.” The Senate rejected this legislation and sent it back to the House. The House then proposed a spending bill version that would delay implementation of “Obamacare” for one year. The Senate tabled the bill, gave it no consideration, and the government shut down.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., now Senate minority leader and orchestrator of the 2018 shutdown, took a clear position regarding Republican actions in 2013. Democrats were unyielding in their stand against the Obamacare-related actions of Republicans. The following Schumer quote appears in an article by John Sexton titled “Chuck Schumer in 2013: If Dems Shut down the Government over Immigration That Would Be ‘A Politics of Idiocy:’”
“I believe in immigration reform. What if I persuaded my caucus to say I’m going to shut the government down, I’m going to not pay our bills unless I get my way. It’s a politics of idiocy, of confrontation, of paralysis.”
In bringing on the recent shutdown, Schumer did exactly what he vehemently accused Republicans of doing in 2013. This is a prime example of the destructive hypocrisy that has taken a foothold in our political process. Hypocrisy is a primary factor, a tool, in the manipulation of people.
At least, in 2013, Republicans had legislation prepared that presented what they wanted to do. That statement is no endorsement of what happened, just a statement of fact. Democrats did not have legislation ready to present for consideration in 2018 as they demanded that action on DACA be attached to the CR.
Further, Republicans repeatedly said there was nothing in the pending continuing resolution with which Democrats disagreed. In all of my research and watching news reports that included comments by Democrats was there any indication that the Republican claim was in error.
Schumer and other Democrats, as well as many media personalities, repeatedly used the talking point that since Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate and the president is a Republican, the shutdown was a “failure to lead.” This is pure misdirection in that Democrats chose to filibuster the CR that would have kept the government open. Ending a filibuster requires 60 votes; there are only 51 Republican senators.
On Jan. 9, Trump led a bipartisan meeting at the White House where discussion of solving the DACA problem was central. A substantial portion of that meeting was televised. The meeting seemed productive in laying a foundation for negotiations. Bipartisan negotiations have continued in spite of the shutdown and other distractions.
In the final analysis, Democrats, profoundly and unfairly, negatively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans. This was done when there was ample time remaining to address the DACA issue. The push was made to attach an item to a funding bill when the issue had absolutely nothing to do with funding.
In doing so, the hypocrisy that is a primary tool of manipulation showed its face. With no DACA legislation ready to present, and no Democratic opposition to contents of the CR, the government was still shut down. This, despite the promising and productive Jan. 9 bipartisan White House meeting with follow-on DACA negotiations that continue to this very day. Cap all of this off with the Democratic filibuster of the CR that would have kept the government open and the blaming of Republicans who only have 51 Republican senators when 60 votes are required to end a filibuster.
All this reflects political manipulation with no hint of reason or rational basis for action by Democrats anywhere in sight.
The current CR expires Feb. 8. The promise of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., senate majority leader, as to what happens if there is no legislation to fix DACA by that date is a matter for another column. If that promise must be executed, I expect reason will face another test in a political atmosphere where reason is routinely laid waste, discarded, treated as some unwelcomed alien being.
Photo: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer