Dems, DACA, CHIP & a possible Shutdown
Democrats face a political hostage situation: the Dreamers for CHIP
The deadline to fund the Federal Government and avoid a shutdown is Friday (January 19th) and the same dynamics that plagued the GOP during the push to pass the Tax Plan and repeal Obamacare are still at work. As the majority party in Congress and the Presidency, the responsibility to fund the government clearly falls on the Republicans, but the party has become radicalized in recent years and the cracks are starting to show.
Paul Ryan’s current attempt to bring the GOP’s warring factions to the table involves a six-month funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and attached to a continuing resolution to fund the government through February. He’s thrown in some red-meat for the Tea Party’s “Freedom Caucus” in the form of delays to some Obamacare tax measures but, at this point, it’s unclear if this measure has enough support from Republicans to pass.
Democrats Face A Tough Choice
The budget is the single strongest political leverage the Democrats are likely to have on DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or “Dreamer” program which protects children brought illegally to the United States. If Democrats back the budget measure without insisting on protections for the Dreamers, the vote will likely be taken by voters and the media as an abandonment of the issue by the Democrats.
On the other hand, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been on the financial rocks since April of 2017 and states are already running out of money to fund the health insurance of millions of kids. A six year extension of funding for the CHIP program would be a big win for Democrats, though at the expense of the Dreamers.
Democrats have essentially three options given the political landscape in front of them.
- Support Speaker Ryan’s budget resolution in order to get CHIP funded while giving up leverage on DACA.
- Refuse to join Speaker Ryan’s budget resolution without a promise from Congressional leadership for a “clean” DACA bill — ie, one not linked to a border wall or other unrelated issues. Such a bill would probably pass both the House and Senate though there’s no guarantee the President would sign it.
- Refuse to join Speaker Ryan’s budget resolution under any circumstances and hope a shutdown further erodes Republican credibility.
If Ryan is unable to get the House to pass a resolution or if Democrats manage to stop the bill in the Senate, the government will shut down on 12:01am on January 20th. When that happens the pressure goes way up on these negotiations and, come Monday, when thousands of government workers sit at home on furlough, all eyes will be on the Congress to conduct the business of the nation.
The conventional political wisdom is that a shutdown favors the party that holds the Presidency because the White House has a much easier time commanding the media’s attention. On the other hand, few Presidents have had as stormy a relationship with the media as Mr. Trump and with complete Republican control of Government it is difficult to imagine where else the blame for a shutdown might fall.
In a recent, complicating development, President Trump dropped this Tweet at 5:37 this morning, potentially yanking out the lynchpin of Ryan’s entire strategy.
Despite that, the House passed the stop-gap funding measure Thursday night with 6 years of CHIP funding though still with no protections for the Dreamers. Critically, Democrats opposed the measure, which means that Senate Democrats are also likely to object to it.
The Senate needs 60 votes to prevent a filibuster, so if the Senate Democrats want to, they can force Republicans to the table under threat of a shutdown.
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