Three days into the second year of his presidency, Donald Trump and the GOP celebrated a victory Monday when the Republicans did something I can’t ever remember them doing before -- winning a government shutdown politically.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cried uncle 72 hours into the shutdown, setting the stage for the government to reopen. Later that day, the sides agreed on a spending bill that will keep the feds in operation until Feb. 8.
There are multiple reasons why Democrats always seemed to win these things in the past, but this time, they got out-maneuvered by their GOP brethren.
For starters, Republicans included six years worth of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance for almost 9 million children across the nation, in a resolution Friday that would have kept the government open for 28 days. Democrats in the Senate filibustered the legislation, ensuring a shutdown in the process. Problem was, voting against CHIP was a bad look for Schumer & Co.
Worse, what Schumer and his fellow Democrats were holding out for a was permanent solution for keeping Dreamers -- people brought to this country illegally as children by their parents -- in the United States.
The Dreamers have become a cause celebre for the Dems, but I think it’s safe to say there are many on the Republican side of the aisle who have sympathy for their plight as well.
The problem for Schumer and his allies was holding out for a solution for the Dreamers while passing on long-term funding for CHIP and at the same time creating a government shutdown that would prevent members of the military from getting paid was a political loser for Democrats. Basically, they backed themselves into a corner that allowed Republicans to paint them as being more concerned about immigrants in the country illegally than children who are less fortunate and our soldiers, sailors and airmen. No wonder the “Schumer Shutdown” became the “Schumer Surrender” in quick fashion.
Democrats said they agreed to end the shutdown after receiving assurances from Republicans they would consider legislation to protect the Dreamers.
Republicans should follow through on that promise, but they should continue to insist that any permanent solution for the Dreamers be connected to full funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Schumer said he offered funding for the wall during negotiations with Trump prior to last weekend’s shutdown, but an administration official, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, said Schumer’s statement was misleading, that the Senate minority leader offered only $1.8 billion in wall funding, nowhere near the the $20 billion the president was requesting.
Republicans should stand firm on funding for the wall because helping the Dreamers without securing the border will simply encourage more people to attempt to come here illegally. Make no mistake, legal immigration is a good thing and something every American should support. Illegal immigration is not.
Best of all for the GOP, this is a chance to chalk up another win to go along with recent passage of the tax bill.
Because Republicans rightly insist on differentiating between legal and illegal immigration while Democrats always seem intent on clouding the lines between the two, Republicans often come off looking like the bad guys, heartless and out of touch.
By taking an active role in creating a solution for the Dreamers, the GOP has a chance to steal an issue from the Democrats.
Imagine a Rose Garden ceremony in which Trump signs a bill that provides a path for the Dreamers to stay while also assuring the border wall becomes a reality. That would be quite an image for Republicans to take into midterm election campaigns.
And if the Democrats won’t play ball on the wall, well, then the GOP would be able to paint Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Co. as obstructionists who are holding up legislation to help a group they claim to care so much about.
After stumbling and fumbling through much of 2017, Republicans have managed to build some momentum over the last month or so, first with the tax bill and now Schumer’s quick surrender. Trump and the GOP majority should continue to press their advantage moving forward: Stand firm on wall funding, help find a solution for the Dreamers and claim another win.
Lew Gilliland is assistant editor of The Daily Home. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.