“Hostage-taking” is the term that was used in 2013 when Ted Cruz and a few other Republicans blocked government funding to try to force repeal of ObamaCare. You can’t deny people essential government services just because you didn’t get your way on some other policy! Now here we are, five years later, and Democrats are prepared to deny those same services because they haven’t gotten their way on a DREAM amnesty with essentially no strings attached. Burnett can’t help noticing. And when she confronts Ed Markey about it, all he can do is yammer about how it’s Republicans, not Democrats, who are supposedly holding DREAMers hostage.
Let’s run through this again because job one for Schumer and Pelosi over the next 24 hours will be to muddy waters that are actually quite clear.
First offer from Republicans: Let’s fund the government and pass a DREAM amnesty, as both sides want to do, and in return you give us some concessions on chain migration and the wall. Republicans have no choice but to use DREAM as leverage for those concessions despite their support for the policy because Democrats are incredibly reluctant to tighten admission policies under the best of circumstances. So how about a little something in return for DREAM, in the name of compromise? Nope, says Schumer. Won’t do it. We’ll give you a few billion in mad money for border improvements but we’re not doing anything that might move the U.S. towards skills-based criteria for immigrants and away from “bring the whole family!” policies.
Second offer from Republicans: Okay, since we’re stuck on a DREAM deal, let’s table the whole immigration issue for now and instead agree to fund the government and extend CHIP long-term, as both sides want to do. We’ll come back to DREAM afterwards when we’re not facing a hard deadline. Nope, says Schumer. Won’t do it. The amnesty fanatics in my base refuse to let us sign on to any funding deal that doesn’t include DREAM. Even though not only is DACA still in effect, the feds are letting enrollees renew their enrollments.
Third offer from Republicans: Okay, since Democrats are hung up on amnesty and worried about voting for a bill that doesn’t include it, let’s temporarily change the rules so that they don’t have to vote for the bill at all. Last night McConnell asked for unanimous consent from the Senate to let Republicans pass a funding bill with 50 votes instead of the 60 that the filibuster requires. It’s not at all certain that he has even 50 votes right now, but he was willing to take full responsibility for the bill’s passage via his caucus alone. If he found the votes he needed, the government would stay open without any Democratic assent to the DREAM-less bill. Nope, said Schumer. Won’t do it. He objected to the motion for unanimous consent. McConnell still needs 60, all but ensuring a shutdown.
And yet, for a variety of reasons ranging from the fact that they control the government to their own frequent small-government rhetoric to media bias, Republicans and Trump combined stand to take more heat if there’s a shutdown tonight than Democrats will:
The basic problem with the current funding standoff is the same basic problem in all negotiations that touch on immigration: Democrats are simply too radical on the issue to agree to meaningful compromise. In that one sense, immigration politics reminds me of abortion politics. There too Republicans are knocked as radicals and absolutists when in reality Democrats are at least as extreme in their own beliefs. Heavy majorities of the public agree that abortion should be banned after 20 weeks yet it’s basic dogma among most Democratic pols — certainly ones with national ambitions — that abortion should be completely unrestricted, essentially up to the moment of birth. Even Doug Jones, running for a Senate seat in a red state in the deep south, wouldn’t move off that position. That’s fanaticism.
So it is with immigration, where Democrats routinely resist attempts to put real teeth into enforcement (e.g., E-Verify) or to limit far-reaching family reunification policies for legal immigrants, even if Republicans are willing to agree to amnesty in the process. The “absolutist” GOP, led by its “nativist” president, is openly declaring its willingness to rubber-stamp DREAM. They just want a down payment on real controls over new immigration. Democrats won’t do it because, demographics being what they are, they’ve increasingly adopted a fanatic stance on open borders for their own political gain. It really is as simple as that.