By Glynn Wilson –
One year to the day after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president of the United States on a promise to “make America great again,” he proved to be a failure as a deal maker and only made the governing crisis in Washington, D.C. worse.
Republicans and Democrats proposed all manner of compromises to avoid a devastating government shutdown. But at the end of the day, at midnight, the Republicans could only muster 50 votes on a short-term government funding bill when they needed 60 to prevent a filibuster.
“His inability to cut a deal despite having a Republican majority in both houses of Congress marks arguably the most debilitating setback for his crisis-plagued administration,” the wire service Reuters reported. “The world’s most powerful government shut down on Saturday after President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress failed to reach a deal on funding for federal agencies, highlighting America’s deep political divisions.”
About the only winner who can take away honor from this battlefield in the late night fight appeared to be the new Senator from Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones, who was openly praised by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a speech after midnight.
“I want to commend the five Democrats who voted not to shut the government down,” McConnell said. “The new Senator from Alabama said during his campaign that it was important to fund the S-CHIP program and he listened to the seven Democratic governors who said this is an emergency, we need help. So there were five courageous Democrats on the other side.”
“Today, I voted to keep the federal government open past midnight tonight and to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program – finally – for six more years,” U.S. Senator Doug Jones said in a statement released after midnight after he voted to end debate on a short-term government funding bill.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “Millions of our most vulnerable young Americans have been used as political pawns in this process, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program sat in limbo for four months leading up to this debate.”
Trump had countermanded an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama to fund the program. The Republicans in charge of the agenda in Congress never put a bill together to fund it.
“At the end of the day, we all know this is not how government is supposed to run,” Jones said. “But I made a commitment to more than 150,000 children and their families who depend on Alabama’s CHIP program, ALL Kids. Because of CHIP and the many families in Alabama and around our country that would be put in jeopardy by a government shutdown, I felt compelled to vote yes.”
But his vote was not enough. He was joined by Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all of whom face tough paths to reelection in states that supported Trump in 2016. So for the first time since October 2013, when a similar standoff that lasted 16 days kept only essential agency operations running, federal workers were being told to stay at home or in some cases to work without pay until new funding is approved.
“We need a long-term budget in place that reflects our values and we know that this bill falls short,” Jones said. “Among other things, this short-term bill failed to provide a lifeline for health care access in rural communities, did not fully address the opioid epidemic or the looming crisis with pensions, did not protect DREAMers, and did not fully fund our military. We have a responsibility to put the interests of the people before partisan in-fighting and I remain hopeful that we can find common ground and end this shutdown immediately.”
A late night vote in the Senate failed to reach another deal on a short-term bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, but the House planned to remain in session on Saturday to see if a compromise could be reached before the real crisis begins on Monday, when national parks and other essential government agencies are expected to begin an expensive shutdown, and the stock market is likely to go into free-fall on the news of a failure for the U.S. government to make a deal to remain open.
While the president took to Twitter on Saturday to try to blame the Democrats, he was losing the Twitter PR war, with #Trumpshutdown taking over the title as the top trending hashtag in the world.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday showed that 48 percent of Americans would blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown, compared to 28 percent who said they would blame the Democrats.
Democrats had insisted that any bill to renew government funding also contain permanent protections for approximately 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants who were brought illegally into the United States as children. Trump rejected a bipartisan Senate deal that would have accomplished that as well as hand the White House $2.7 billion in new money for immigration enforcement at America’s borders.
Four Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in voting against the measure to keep the government open, so it would be hard to blame this on the Democrats alone. It was not a straight party line vote.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said his party took significant steps to reach a deal, including raising the possibility of funding for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“It’s almost as if you were rooting for a shutdown,” Schumer said in comments on the Senate floor aimed directly at Trump. “There is no doubt this is a #Trumpshutdown.”
This is a national crisis no matter what side of the political aisle you sit on. It should not be a partisan issue.
© 2018, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.