WaPo: New Senate "gang" forming to try to end the shutdown

Seems legit. When has a “gang” proposal on immigration in the Senate ever been a bad idea?

We need to come up with a new term for these bipartisan confabs to resolve legislative stalemates, by the way. “Gang” isn’t right. Every time I hear it I think of Lindsey Graham with a teardrop tattoo under his eye.

I think it’s worth a try at this point, though. Trump rightly shot down Graham’s latest idea of reopening the government temporarily while the parties negotiate on immigration, with a declaration of national emergency to follow if no deal was reached. That was reeeeally stupid for a bunch of reasons. It would have meant a second shutdown within a month potentially; it would have angered Democrats by using the emergency declaration as a sort of trump card up front if they didn’t cave to Republican demands; and it might have backfired if they reached a deal but it wasn’t to Trump’s liking, inspiring a split on the right over whether it should be accepted. The real problem is that it was a mere suggestion, something POTUS could wave away. If the “gang” can put together a concrete plan with enough swing votes to get to 60 in theory, it’d put pressure on Trump and McConnell to acquiesce. It’s one thing for Trump to say “We’re not ending the shutdown this way” when there’s nothing on the table right in front of him that would do it. It’s another to say it when there’s a bill and it has bipartisan support sufficient to end the stalemate.

The group involves Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and others, according to people involved. It will hold its first meeting on Monday evening.

Prospects for the group to achieve any results — or even get off the ground — are uncertain. But the group’s creation is a sign senators of both parties are eager to end the shutdown, even if it means taking matters into their own hands amid an impasse between top Democrats and President Trump…

McConnell is not discouraging individual senators from brainstorming or strategizing, according to a senior Senate GOP leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe his view, but his thinking on how to solve the problem has not changed.

The task is simple. Trump is stuck on the wall, Democrats are stuck on “no negotiations over the wall.” All the gang needs to do is … no, wait, those positions are completely irreconcilable. Well then!

Obviously they’re going to float some sort of amnesty in exchange for the wall. Trump seems open to that — hypothetically:


The problem is that his previous ask on a full DREAM amnesty was $25 billion for the wall plus some concessions on limiting legal immigration. He can’t come off that without losing face, and not losing face is now the entire point of this exercise. Maybe the gang can broker some much more limited amnesty in exchange for $5 billion for the wall, like a temporary extension of DACA permits instead of full legal status for DREAMers.

But Pelosi wouldn’t agree to that. Imagine going back to her base and telling them that Trump’s getting his wall and DREAMers aren’t even getting the right to remain permanently in the United States in return. They’d be mortified.

Plus, how could the gang realistically secure 60 votes for a plan without Trump’s support up front? Senate Republicans will be reluctant to back a bipartisan bill en masse without Trump’s approval. The only way to get 60 would be to have every Democrat on board plus 13 Republicans, which would be a huge number for any Senate “gang.” And caucus unity is notoriously hard to come by on immigration compromises, particularly as a presidential campaign is beginning. Anything short of blanket amnesty in exchange for nothing will be opposed by the Democrats’ presidential wannabes in the Senate in order to signal their ideological purity to progressives.

No wonder the White House is focused on Pelosi’s caucus instead:

Behind the scenes: Senior administration officials have discussed inviting rank-and-file Democrats to the White House, hoping they may be willing to negotiate over funding for a barrier, according to two sources privy to the private discussions. They’re planning to target freshman Democratic House members from districts Trump won in 2016.

Republican officials involved conceded to me that it’s a stretch to imagine the White House can break Nancy Pelosi’s strong command of her caucus. But administration officials tell me they’re going to try.

Just as I’m writing this, news is breaking:

Yeah, the problem there is somehow getting a bill on the floor. Even if you find a bunch of House Democrats willing to vote for more “barriers” on the border, there’d need to be an extraordinary public revolt by them to put pressure on Pelosi, basically siding with Trump on the need for a wall and calling on her to hold a vote. And not just any House Democrats either: It would probably need to be led by purple-district Democrats, many of whom are freshmen. Imagine being a young member of Congress, on your 11th day on the job, and being lobbied by a president whom your party hates to side with him against your powerful liberal Speaker in a major standoff. Which Dem frosh want to make an enemy of Pelosi and be dubbed traitors to the party by destroying her leverage here?

What I’m trying to say is that the shutdown may go on forever:

Here’s Kellyanne Conway touting the possibility of a Democratic revolt in Congress against Pelosi’s and Schumer’s no-negotiation stance. Good luck with that. Exit quotation via the Denver Post: “[A] spokesman for Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said the senator thinks the 2013 bill by the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators, would be a good place to start.” Uh, what? Is Gardner that desperate to pander to his purple state ahead of his big reelection fight?