Dems warn of government shutdown over funding for border wall
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is warning Republicans that the Democrats could shut down the government if they fund President Trump's border wall or try to defund Planned Parenthood.
The threat comes as Congress prepares to wrestle with a stopgap funding measure that will keep the government going after April 28. If the two sides can't agree by then, there will be a partial government shutdown beginning on April 29.
Schumer mentioned some other issues that Democrats may balk at voting for, including funding a "deportation force" to round up illegal aliens. It's unclear whether Schumer is talking about the increase in border patrol agents and ICE officers that President Trump has proposed to beef up border security and immigration enforcement.
"If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy," Schumer said in a statement.
I seem to recall that when the Democrats held the White House and the Senate, they were saying that any government shutdown would by the GOP's fault and that it was irresponsible to even threaten to refuse to fund the government.
My, oh, my, have times changed.
Democrats also warned against including funding for a "deportation force" as the Trump administration emphasizes ramped up arrests and deportations of immigrants in the country illegally.
A Planned Parenthood funding fight brought Congress to the brink of shutting down the government in March 2011, and immigration has also been a major fight in previous spending bills.
The threat comes as Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating a spending bill behind the scenes, but with no clear way to break the looming impasse. Republicans have been mostly focused on their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, including a provision to defund Planned Parenthood.
Democrats also want to preserve provisions in current law requiring an equal increase in defense and non-defense spending, but that demand contradicts Trump’s plan to significantly boost defense spending while imposing deep domestic spending cuts.
Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina noted Democrats have the power to block bills.
"You know as well as I do the threshold for legislation is not 51," he said Monday.
But Scott said Democrats should look at past shutdowns and realize that isn’t the best way to proceed.
A 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 resulted in the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal employees as Republicans tried and failed to get President Barack Obama to defund the Affordable Care Act.
It’s not clear yet if Democrats would actually carry out their threat if the White House and Republicans would dare them to block a bill to keep the government open, as that strategy isn’t without risk. Ten Democratic senators face re-election in the 2018 midterm elections in states Trump won, and the president can argue he is merely trying to implement the agenda he ran on.
Such obvious, cynical hypocrisy aside, the Democrats don't have a leg to stand on. Funding for the border wall is likely to be included in a huge infrastructure spending bill Democrats wouldn't dare try to block, since they have been the primary backers of such spending for the last decade.
And their fictitious "deportation force" won't wash, either. The increases in funding for border security and enforcement of our immigration laws are wildly popular. The GOP should dare the Democrats to vote against them.
Would the Democrats shut down the government over cutting funding for Planned Parenthood? It's a weak argument, but they will be under pressure from feminists and other women's groups to do anything to keep the funding for PP alive.
The bottom line is that even with the media on their side in trying to blame the GOP for any attempt to shut down the government, it will be a tough sell for the Democrats, especially if they do it to block popular spending on the wall and increased border security. Unlike 2011, where the GOP shut down the government over Obamacare spending – an unpopular program even then – Democrats will be fighting history and their own words about the dangers of a shutdown.