GOP antes up their CHIPs in budget showdown

Out, at least for the moment: DACA and spending caps. In, for the short run: CHIP and delays on ObamaCare taxes. Republican leadership on Capitol Hill hope to drum up enough support for a one-month continuing resolution to stave off a shutdown while longer-range talks on immigration reform and spending caps continue. The question will be whether Democrats and fiscal conservatives combine to pass it — or to kill it:

House Republican leaders presented their rank and file with a one-month spending bill Tuesday aimed at keeping the government open ahead of a Friday night deadline, as hopes for a deal on young undocumented immigrants faded.

The bill would extend existing spending levels through Feb. 16 and include an extension of a popular children’s health insurance program — aimed at winning Democratic votes — and a new sweetener for conservatives and Democrats alike in delaying several taxes included in the Affordable Care Act. Few lawmakers were enthusiastic about the legislation, but several described it as a necessary evil to avoid the first government shutdown since 2013.

So far, bet on the kill:

The Freedom Caucus huddled late Tuesday to discuss the legislation, and Meadows emerged dour about its prospects.

“At this point with the undecided votes and no votes in the conference there are not enough votes to pass a [continuing resolution] with Republicans only,” he said. …

“We don’t want to shut down the government — we never want to,” House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters. “We want to keep the government open, but I will repeat, we’re not going to be held hostage to do things we think are contrary to the best interest of the American people.”

The CHIP funding would be a mighty big carrot, though. Democrats torpedoed an earlier effort to extend CHIP funding after objecting to the GOP’s demand for cuts in other areas to pay for the program. This bill apparently concedes on that point, as well as delaying the application of other taxes in order to act as sweeteners for conservatives. Democrats argued that the earlier version was just a Republican attack on other services, but they may have trouble hanging a lack of CHIP funding on their opponents after this if they don’t take yes for an answer now.

What they really want is DACA on their own terms. Dick Durbin plans to introduce as legislation today the bipartisan plan that emerged last week from a small working group on Capitol Hill. After last week’s “s***hole” meeting, Trump has come out firmly against the plan. Tom Cotton told Hugh Hewitt that Trump is right — that he’s already made concessions to Democrats on DACA, and now it’s their turn to offer serious concessions for border security (via RCP):

Senator Tom Cotton joined the Hugh Hewitt Show Tuesday morning to discuss the immigration reform negotiations dividing the Senate this week.

In response to the six-Senator “gang of Amnesty” deal being pushed by Sen. Jeff Flake and several Democrats, Sen. Cotton argued: “For four months, they kept asking the President what’s his proposal, what’s his concessions? The President has already made his fundamental concession to their position. He is willing to give an amnesty to hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more illegal immigrants who were by and large brought here through no fault of their own.”

“That’s his concession to their position,” Cotton said about the president’s position on DACA. “It’s time for [Democrats] to start making concessions to our position, to ending chain migration, to ending the diversity lottery, and securing our borders and enforcing our laws.”

Cotton explained why border security requires much more emphasis in a DACA deal of any kind:

So Hugh, this has been our point all along going back months that the Gang of Amnesty simply won’t accept. If you give an amnesty of any kind, but especially an amnesty to people who were brought here as children, it has two unavoidable, logically-related side effects. First, it encourages more illegal immigration with children, which is extremely dangerous. That’s why we have to secure our border and enforce our laws to ensure that situation doesn’t occur again. Second, it creates a new set of initiating immigrants for more chain migration, and encourages more illegal immigration, because you can create more chain migration for your relatives in the future.

That’s why I say logically-related package. It’s not a comprehensive bill that tries to give amnesty to 12 million people or solve every problem we have with, say, temporary guest worker programs for farmers or ski resorts. It is a discrete, coherent, logical package that the Gang of Amnesty simply has rejected for four months despite Donald Trump’s willingness to provide that legal protection for those 700,000 or so people.

The big question will be whether Democrats need DACA more than children’s health insurance, and whether they can make that argument stick in a shutdown. The media reports that Republicans will get blamed more in a shutdown, and that may be true, but the White House will control the circumstances of a shutdown. That matters more than just the preliminary assessment of blame. If the Trump administration manages the shutdown with any level of political competence, the pressure will build for at least a temporary deal — and Democrats refusing to budge even on a temporary bill when they’ve won a major concession is not going to look good when people’s salaries stop getting deposited into their bank accounts.

What the DACA deal needs is stronger border security, along with two to three “s***hole”-less weeks to calm matters down and get back to negotiations. Perhaps that’s what Democrats fear, but bear in mind that no shutdown has ever really worked out for the minority party. This one won’t end well, either.