“The head is missing, but the body is still alive.
The president killed off all attempts at compromise, then went dark after the government shut down, refusing to say what he would support on immigration or even to engage in negotiations. But in this leadership vacuum, something remarkable happened: Twenty-five senators, from both parties, rediscovered their role as lawmakers. They crafted a deal over the weekend that offers a possible path forward, and, in dramatic fashion on the Senate floor Monday, signaled the end of the shutdown with a lopsided 81-to-18 vote.
The agreement may not end in a long-sought immigration deal and a long-term spending plan. Trump could yet kill any deals they reach. And liberal interest groups are furious at what they see as a Democratic surrender. But Monday’s breakthrough shows there is at least the potential for lawmakers to take the wheel from an erratic and dangerous driver.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), announcing his deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, said he hadn’t even heard from Trump since Friday, before the government closed. “The White House refused to engage in negotiations over the weekend. The great dealmaking president sat on the sidelines,” Schumer said, adding that he reached agreement with McConnell “despite and because of this frustration.”
Looking down from the gallery Monday afternoon, I saw the sort of scene rarely observed any longer in the Capitol: bipartisan camaraderie. Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), two architects of the compromise, were talking, when McConnell, with a chipper “Hey, Chris,” beckoned him for a talk with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who soon broke off for a word with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) hobnobbed with Coons and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) put an arm around Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as he chatted with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). During the vote, Manchin sat on the Republican side with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sat with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Durbin marveled at the festival of bonhomie. “What I have seen here on the floor of the Senate in the last few days is something we have not seen for years,” he said.
Neither side particularly wanted this shutdown. It was the work of a disengaged president who contributed only mixed signals, confusion and sabotage. After provoking the shutdown by killing a bipartisan compromise to provide legal protection for the “dreamers” (undocumented immigrants who came as children), Trump’s political arm put up a TV ad exploiting the dreamers by saying “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
Trump’s anti-immigrant ad and his racist outburst in the White House last week will only increase Republicans’ long-term political problems, but, in the short term, Republicans succeeded in portraying Democrats as shutting down the government to protect illegal immigrants. And liberal interest groups took the bait. In a conference call just before news of the deal broke Monday morning, a broad array of progressive groups — Planned Parenthood, labor unions, the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, MoveOn and Indivisible — joined immigration activists in demanding Democrats refuse to allow the government to reopen without an immediate deal for the dreamers.”
Read the rest of Milbank’s op-ed at the link.
I’ve said all along that there is potential for Congress to govern if McConnell, Ryan, and the rest of the GOP leadership would permit it. But, that means ditching the “Hastert Rule” (named, btw, for convicted “perv” and former GOP Speaker Denny Hastert) and thereby “PO’ing” both the “White Nationalist” and “Bakuninist Wings” of the GOP. That’s why it likely won’t happen. Because although they could govern in this manner, in coalition with many Dems, the modern GOP is beholden to both the White Nationalists and the Bakuninists to win elections and have a chance at being in the legislative majority.
In the end, if the Dems want to change the way America is governed for the better, they’re going to have to win some elections — lots of them. And, that’s not going to happen overnight. Although I can appreciate the Dreamers’ frustration, I think they would do better getting behind the Dems, and even the moderate GOP legislators who support them, rather than throwing “spitballs.”
Ironically, the disappearing breed of “GOP moderates” — who played a key role in restarting the Government — could be more effective and wield more power if they were in the minority, rather than being stuck in a majority catering to the extremest elements of a perhaps loud, but certainly a distinct minority, of Americans!