Sohn: Are we having a 'metaphorical' government shutdown?

Sohn: Are we having a 'metaphorical' government shutdown?

January 5th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

A Capitol worker arranges barricades in Washington Thursday during the partial government shutdown. (Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times)

Photo by SARAH SILBIGER

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is shifting the blame to Donald Trump for the lengthening partial government shutdown.

McConnell isn't saying it quite that bluntly, of course. He is a politician, after all.

But the meaning is plain enough:

"I've made it clear on several occasions, and let me say it again: The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber AND getting a presidential signature," he said. The emphasis on that 'and' was McConnell's, and it offers an unmistakable signal.

Then the majority leader dished on Democrats: "Let's not waste the time. Let's not get off on the wrong foot, with House Democrats using their new platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions."

Of McConnell's own "political statement," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, suggested McConnell should jump on it.

"The power to end the shutdown is in two people's hands: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell," Schumer said. "Either one of them could end the shutdown. They both should try."

Sadly the repartee and blame game won't buy groceries for the more than 800,000 furloughed or working-without-pay federal workers across the country.

Democrats wasted no time as Congress reconvened Thursday, passing a package of bills to end the shutdown by temporarily funding the Department of Homeland Security at current levels with $1.3 billion for border security. Though that is far from the $5 billion plus Trump wants for his "wall," the House package essentially mirrors the temporary funding bills passed by the Senate on a voice vote last month.

Yet McConnell says he won't won't bring the bills forward. Rather, he'll hold them hostage to give the president cover. And the president on Friday threatened Democrats that the shutdown could last "months or even years."

Not all Republicans are good with that.

"I'm not saying their whole plan is a valid plan, but I see no reason why the bills that are ready to go, and on which we've achieved an agreement, should be held hostage to this debate over border security," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Tennessee's Sen. Lamar Alexander offered three ideas for compromise to end the shutdown, including going "really big" on the underlying dispute by "creating a legal immigration system that secures our borders and defines legal status for those already here."

Alexander, in an op-ed column published Wednesday in the Washington Post, noted that in 2013, 68 senators — and all 54 Democrats — voted for that "really big" option that included more than $40 billion and many other provisions to secure our borders. The GOP-controlled House refused to take it up.

Alexander's other two options were to "go small" and give the president the $1.6 billion he asked for in this year's budget request, which the bipartisan Senate Appropriations Committee approved, and provide an additional $1 billion to improve border security at ports of entry, which he says everyone concedes is needed.

Alexander's third option was a middle-ground approach: "Pass the bill that 54 senators voted for last February, which combined a solution for children brought to the United States illegally (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA) and $25 billion in appropriated funding for border security over 10 years. The bill failed [in February] only because of last-minute White House opposition."

Alexander was kind to the president in that comment. Trump backed out at the last minute — a move many believed the president thought would help him in elections: He would use the missing wall against Democrats. So much for that idea.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, also has floated a DACA/wall compromise. But Graham is almost as wishy-washy as Trump. On Wednesday, Graham told Fox's Sean Hannity that if Trump "gives in now, that's the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president. ... That's probably the end of his presidency. Donald Trump has made a promise to the American people: He's going to secure our border."

Last month, the same Lindsey Graham said that Trump's wall was a "metaphorical" wall.

We get it: We taxpayers will pay "metaphorical" dollars for that "metaphorical" wall that Mexico was "metaphorically" going to pay for.

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