On Monday, after news broke that the Senate Democrats had caved to Republicans on the government shutdown, earning a mere promise for a vote on immigration legislation, House Democrats opened fire on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), among others. Rep. Luis Guttierez (D-IL) grumbled, “They caved. They blinked. That’s what they do.” The only Senate Democrats who held out were from deep blue states, except for 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) even jumped into the fray: “I don’t see that there’s any reason — I’m speaking personally and hearing from my members — to support what was put forth.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) fumed, “The Majority Leader’s comments last night fell far short of the ironclad guarantee I needed to support a stopgap spending bill. … I will do everything in my power to continue to protect DREAMers from deportation.”
So, what did Democrats get from this shutdown?
Here’s the full list: the perception that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had outlasted them at the negotiating table; the understanding that Democrats will be unable to fight Republicans using a government shutdown as leverage, at least on the issue of illegal immigration; the impression that Democrats care more about illegal immigrants than military members; a Democratic base that now believes the Democrats are on the run; the impression that Democrats were responsible for the shutdown.
What have Republicans gained?
They’ve gained the perception that they can govern; combined with the tax cut bill, Republicans in Congress have done their job and forced Democrats into a position of irrelevance. Furthermore, the White House now says that it will not sign the Graham-Durbin proposal, a Senate bill to legalize illegal immigrant children and their parents, and hand citizenship to the kids.
This sets up another showdown for February 8, when the current continuing resolution expires — but Democrats obviously have zero leverage tying DACA to funding. Which means that they’re better off simply fighting for a clean DACA bill before March. But again, the administration doesn’t have to capitulate — Trump can softly reinstate DACA to avoid the public pressure attendant on a sweep of illegal immigration arrests.
Democrats hurt themselves. They bluffed, and their bluff was called. Republicans should take advantage of that fact.