Why the end of the Trump Shutdown is good for Democrats

National Park closures during 2013 government shutdown

Today, Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed to end the federal government shutdown (known as the “Trump Shutdown”) and keep government running until February 8, by which time Congress hopes to vote on a new long-term spending bill. In return for their agreement, Democrats got a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that Congressional Republicans had let expire last September. Furthermore, the agreement includes a promise by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on codifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which Donald Trump ended last September. The agreement can be seen as a net win for Democrats, and they should portray it as such.

First, as a general principle, shutdowns are bad for Democrats because they are the party of government, so no government means no rational Democratic proposals to help people can be put forward, or even get a mention for political purposes.

Second, by voting to help reopen the federal government, Democrats give away nothing; they’re simply back to having a government like we had last Friday and before.

Third, there currently is no CHIP because Republicans let it expire. Now CHIP will be in place for 6 years, and Congress will have lots of time to make it permanent or extend it, possibly with Democratic majorities at that time.

Fourth, Republicans and Democrats got together and came up with a bill to codify DACA earlier this month, but McConnell would not advance the bill for a vote because he said he did not have Donald Trump’s commitment to sign it. Thus, there was no concrete hope that Republicans would take any further action on DACA. Now, with the latest agreement, there is a promise by McConnell to have a DACA vote by February 8. If McConnell reneges or pulls shenanigans regarding this vote, Democrats will have a great issue on which to pummel the GOP, which is also a popular issue (plus it is now decoupled from the DACA vs. Shutdown question that polled badly), and Democrats can take other punitive action at that time if necessary.

Fifth, Democrats can say that they took the side of America’s men and women in uniform, first seeking to lessen the effects of the shutdown, and now to end the shutdown. In particular Democratic Senator Richard Durbin introduced a bill on Friday to continue paying military personnel in the event of a shutdown. All Democratic Senators, plus the two Independent Senators who caucus with the Democrats, co-sponsored the bill. Additionally, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill introduced a resolution on the Senate floor shortly after the shutdown began, to continue the troops’ paychecks and death benefits during the shutdown. In both cases, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans opposed the plan.

The Democrats have built a brand over many years. As a result, many voters  know intuitively that Democrats don’t want the government to shut down, and that such failures of leadership belong to the Republicans. With today’s agreement, Democrats can preserve this valuable brand.

Photo by David Fulmer, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/zhOT21

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