Here we go again. Since I go to bed fairly early, I had to wait until this morning to learn that we have entered yet another tedious government shutdown. As usual, the impacts of such an event will be felt by some, though not as many as you might believe, and be completely overblown. And, as always, it will come to an end after the required bits of political theatre play out on the Beltway stage, with everyone who missed a paycheck (if it goes that far) having the money made up to them and business as usual returning.
One of the few, marginally calm summaries of how Washington ground to a partial halt was provided by NBC News last night.
One year to the day since President Donald Trump took office flanked by a Republican Congress, Washington waited for word of where it goes from here as both parties sought to find a way out of the impasse.
The proposal that failed was the one passed by the House on Thursday. It would have funded the government until Feb. 16, extended the low-income children’s health insurance program, or CHIP, for six years and suspended some Obamacare taxes for two years.
Senate Democrats, demanding progress on the fate of the young immigrants covered by the DACA program, withheld their support for the bill after the prospect of an agreement with Republicans and the White House fell apart.
But Republicans failed to assemble a simple majority for the measure as some within their own ranks, frustrated with the spate of month-long spending bills, also opposed the short-term solution.
I’ll solve the blame game for you in a moment if you’re interested, but we should remember that this was entirely avoidable. Just yesterday Allahpundit was asking if Chuck Schumer have any reason to avoid this mess. (Keeping in mind that the House already passed a measure which would have kept the doors open, gave the Democrats a number of things they were asking for, and only needed Schumer to find a handful of votes to extend the talks.) It requires no stretch of the imagination to believe that Schumer honestly thinks he can win the war of public opinion on this one. As AP noted, no less than
three different polls showed that the GOP would get the blame for a shutdown. But that’s only if you ask the generic question of “whose fault it is.” The media has already trained everyone to blame the GOP even if the situation on the ground reverses entirely from one shutdown to the next, so that’s not surprising. But if you probe a little deeper, voters apparently “get” that the impasse over DACA is what caused it and that falls on the shoulders of the Democrats by a 56-34 margin.
If this wears on for a while, some people will feel directly affected by it and have to decide who to blame. But keep in mind that the effects of a short shutdown are always vastly overblown for political effect. Some government workers may be furloughed, but more of them are exempt by way of being considered “essential” than you might think. Entitlement program checks still go out on time, though there will be delays for new applicants. In the military it will be the families of the married members who have the potential to be hit the hardest because they live on low pay and many, particularly among the enlisted ranks, live off base in private sector housing. Single service members can always have a place to sleep and a meal ready for them at the mess hall in nearly all cases. (When I was single in the military I could easily go a month without spending a dime out of pocket.)
And for all of these people, both military and civilian, remember that this shutdown isn’t going to go on for months on end. They never do. In most cases we’re talking about people who are paid every two weeks and in all likelihood, they either won’t miss a single check or it may be slightly delayed. And in nearly all cases they will get any money they “missed” refunded to them by Congress immediately. It’s political suicide for both parties to do otherwise.
Since the only real impact of a brief (under a week) shutdown is political, let’s finish by assigning the “blame” for this. We can run down the short list of suspects. First, there’ the President. Forget about it. Had the House and Senate actually passed something and had Trump vetoed it you’d certainly have a case to make, but he never got a turn at bat. Sure, you can say that anything that happens on his watch is his fault, but then you’d have to give him credit for everything good that happens too. Do the Democrats want to take that deal? Plus, he’s already established his reputation as Mr. I’ll Sign Whatever You Pass And Put On My Desk.
How about Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy? Nope. They passed a plan which already gave away more to the Democrats than their base wanted to see. Conversely, you can’t blame Pelosi either. Her team failed to stop the measure from making it through the House.
Mitch McConnell? Hardly. The Senate majority put together a package which similarly gave the Democrats enough goodies to put some of his own members off their feed. It would have kept the doors open for at least a little while.
So should we blame Chuck Schumer? He might seem like the best target since he could have gotten enough of his members from safe states to vote for a stopgap measure if he wanted. And he’s the one who decided that DACA was the hill they wanted to die on. But in the end, he’s really not to blame either. (For lack of anything better I’ll probably go with #SchumerShutdown on Twitter today, though.)
So who’s really at fault here? You are. And I am. We all are because we keep electing the same cast of circus clowns who feel like they have to put on these strutting displays in an endless attempt to gain a bit of leverage in the political wars. As long as the same leaders are continually sent back to work alongside their usual cast of blacklegs and cullions, devoting more energy to “winning” for their party than actually delivering a win for their constituents, nothing is going to change.
Congratulations. This isn’t the #TrumpShutdown or the #SchumerShutdown. It’s the #AmericanShutdown.