The Rule of Shutdown Politics
Democrats oppose a bill that reauthorizes children’s health care.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 17, 2018 7:21 p.m. ET
Washington is going through one of its hoary melodramas with the threat of a partial government shutdown at 12:01 Saturday morning if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill. These are usually worth ignoring, but in this election year we are likely to see more such showdowns. So it’s important to understand the rule of shutdown politics: Democrats want a shutdown but Republicans will get blamed for it.
This has been roughly true in every shutdown brawl we’ve watched going back to the 1980s. It doesn’t matter if a Republican is President with a Democratic Congress, or vice versa, or if Republicans run both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Sometimes Republicans deserve the blame, as they did with Ted Cruz’s kamikaze run for ObamaCare repeal in 2013. But even if they work in good faith to avoid a shutdown, the media blame Republicans, and many voters figure the GOP must be at fault because it’s the party that prefers smaller government.
Democrats understand this and they use it as political leverage. That’s what’s going on this week behind the scenes as Republicans struggle to put together a budget that can get past the Freedom Caucus in the House but also get at least nine Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
Democrats don’t want to take yes for an answer. GOP leaders want to negotiate a two-year budget deal separate of negotiations over immigration. But Democrats are refusing, though the date when new work permits will no longer be issued to the so-called Dreamer immigrants is the first week of March.
Democrats are refusing even though the tentative budget deal being hashed out behind the scenes would also give them a big increase in new domestic non-entitlement spending over two years. Republicans would get more defense spending. Such a deal will give more Republicans heartburn on the policy merits, but Democrats still won’t accept.

On Wednesday Democrats were even refusing to accept a short-time spending bill to fund the government for a month that includes reauthorization of the CHIP program for children’s health care. Democrats have spent weeks attacking Republicans for not reauthorizing CHIP, implying that children will be denied care.
“This is a program that was created in a bipartisan way, that has always been bipartisan,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio in December. “It’s ready to go. And if Republican leaders put it on the floor today, it would pass. There is no excuse for this delay that is hurting families.” He was still tweeting about the urgency of passing CHIP on Tuesday. But now that Republicans are offering to reauthorize CHIP in return for almost nothing, the Brown Democrats refuse.
The reason is simple: Democrats think a shutdown will improve their chances of retaking the House and Senate in November. Everything they do, every decision they make, is a political calculation with that in mind. Thus supposedly grave moral choices like children’s health care and legal status for immigrants are more important as political battering rams than as policy accomplishments. Dysfunction is desirable because Republicans are nominally in charge and will get the blame.
We’ve editorialized in favor of a generous immigration deal for Dreamers and more money that is urgently needed for defense. A bipartisan deal is better for both than a shutdown. But the more Democrats refuse to accept half a political victory, the more obvious it will be that they want a shutdown.
In that case maybe Republicans should be equally as bloody-minded and call their bluff. Pass a budget with more money for defense and some domestic spending through the House, and dare Senate Democrats to filibuster a bill that contains CHIP. Most of the media will still blame Republicans, but there might be some chance that voters will notice what the Democrats are really up to.
Appeared in the January 18, 2018, print edition.

Comments are closed.

The Reagan Club meets on the second Thursday of every month at CB & Potts, 1257 W 120th Avenue, Westminster, CO, 80234 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. with doors open at 6:00 p.m. Enter via CB & Potts main entrance and head to the back meeting room. Food and beverages are available from CB & Potts. We feature different programs and speakers as we honor the 40th President. The Reagan Club of Colorado seeks to promote the Constitution, smaller government, lower taxes, personal freedom, helping candidates, and educating the public about one of our greatest presidents, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Recent Comments