White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the Democrats "blinked" Monday by agreeing to join Republicans to reopen the government. Democrats supported a bipartisan bill to fund the government until Feb. 8 in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the Senate would address immigration issues, including the protections enshrined by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
"I think that the fact that [Democrats are] voting in favor for this proposal that they rejected a few days ago is sort of evidence that they blinked," Shah told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
CNN's @wolfblitzer: "Do you believe the Senate Democrats blinked?"
WH Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah: "I think that the fact that they're voting in favor for this proposal that they rejected a few days ago is sort of evidence that they blinked" https://t.co/KUQvRlH8Jp
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 22, 2018
The Democrats' decision passed the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and is expected to glide to approval in the House, but it is already controversial among many in the party. "Immigration advocates spent the morning rallying Democrats against the compromise deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)," Talking Points Memo writes. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) slammed her party's compromise, claiming that McConnell's comments "fell far short of the ironclad guarantee I needed to support a stopgap spending bill. I refuse to put the lives of nearly 700,000 young people in the hands of someone who has repeatedly gone back on his word."
Last week, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, told Democrats to not give the GOP "a single vote in keeping the government running … unless they give you a clean bill on DREAMers." Scarborough claimed: "If you do, you are too weak and too spineless and too stupid when it comes to politics and too cowardly to be given control of Congress in 2018." Jeva Lange
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Monday that Democrats will support a stopgap budget measure lasting until Feb. 8, on the condition that if an agreement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals isn't reached, then "the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA." The deal, which is expected to pass shortly and reopen the government, gives Republicans "17 days to prevent the DREAMers from being deported," Schumer said.
Sen. Schumer says deal reached with Sen. McConnell to reopen the government, and “if an agreement isn’t reached by Feb. 8, the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA.” pic.twitter.com/L08R2olc2O
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 22, 2018
Schumer reserved particularly heated criticism for the "deal-making president" who "sat on the sidelines" during negotiations, referring to President Trump. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) praised bipartisan efforts in the Senate as "encouraging."
Not everyone was pleased. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Sunday that it would be "ridiculous to commit" to a Feb. 8 DACA vote. Additionally, the deal is a bit of a "risky bet" for Democrats, Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti said. "Implicit in Dem leaders' bet: that short-term fury/disappointment from activists doesn't translate into long-term voter disengagement," he tweeted. "So ... gonna be a nervy few weeks, to say the least." Jeva Lange
"Everyone admits and acknowledges the president did not want this shutdown, actively worked to prevent this shutdown," said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a Monday appearance on CBS This Morning.
His assessment of Senate Democrats was rather less positive. Mulvaney argued immigration policy should be settled separately from spending, and that Democrats' insistence on addressing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before backing a funding bill puts them in the strange position of opposing a bill whose provisions they support.
"This is something the likes of which Washington has never seen before. This is a bill that Democrats support. Yet they are still not voting for it. They oppose the bill but they don't really oppose the parts of it," Mulvaney said. "Maybe it speaks to how bad the dysfunction is within the Senate Democrats." Watch his comments in context here. Bonnie Kristian
Monday's Morning Joe on MSNBC started off with video of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) talking about the impossibility of negotiating with President Trump on immigration and the government shutdown, then Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blaming the partial shutdown on 32-year-old Trump aide Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner.
In case it wasn't clear which party Morning Joe's anchors blame for the shutdown, Mika Brzezinski quoted The Washington Post: "Yet another period of Trump-fueled tumult [...] pinging from one upheaval to the next — while clearly not understanding the policy nuances of the negotiation." Joe Scarborough, who counseled Democrats to stay resolute in the face of Republican intransigence, exclaimed, "A 32-year-old aide has shut down the government!"
Government shutdown: Day 3 pic.twitter.com/gCa3eBeph1
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 22, 2018
While the Morning Joe crew has the blame game figured out, The Washington Post also noted Monday that it's still "unclear whether the public would blame the Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, or Democrats taking a stand on immigration while shuttering government agencies." Peter Weber
Mitch McConnell blocked a Democratic measure to pay troops during the shutdown, but nobody told Mike Pence
On Sunday, during his shutdown-exempted trip to the Middle East, Vice President Mike Pence criticized Democrats for the partial government shutdown, telling U.S. service members they "shouldn't have to worry about getting paid" — which would happen if the shutdown lasts past Feb. 1 and Congress doesn't act. "Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay," Pence said, explicitly telling NBC News that "it was the Democrat leadership and vast majority of Democrats in the Senate that decided to say no to government funding."
On CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney noted that "traditionally every single time there's a shutdown, Congress has voted to go and pay [troops] retroactively, and we support that." On Saturday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of five Senate Democrats who voted for the stopgap spending bill (five Republicans voted against it), proposed paying the troops now, as Congress did in 2013; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked the measure.
Watch the moment Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tried to pass a bill guaranteeing military pay and death benefits during the gov’t shutdown — and GOP leader Mitch McConnell blocked it pic.twitter.com/RNIdMvvfLx
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 20, 2018
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Army veteran who lost both legs in Iraq in 2004, reminded Republicans later on Saturday that they had shot down the military pay measure, asked them to reconsider, and noted that President Trump was attacking Democrats on Twitter as "holding our Military hostage." "I spent my entire adult life looking out for the well-being, the training, the equipping of the troops for whom I was responsible," Duckworth said. "Sadly, this is something the current occupant of the Oval Office does not seem to care to do — and I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger."
Duckworth even coined a nickname for Trump, "Cadet Bone Spurs," that sounds almost, well, Trumpian. Peter Weber
As the government shutdown heads into its third day, there are two big questions about President Trump's role in the negotiations and underlying issues: Does Trump understand immigration policy, and is he being manipulated and undercut in his negotiations by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and policy adviser Stephen Miller?
On Sunday, Kelly "fielded most of the calls" about the shutdown from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), The New York Times reports, and "the president was urged for a second day to step back from the fray, and for a second day he vented to aides that he wanted to do more to get involved." Friday's shutdown-averting negotiations between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were "derailed" by Kelly and Miller, "whose stance on immigration, coupled with Kelly's position on defense spending, pushed Trump off any compromise," NBC News reports, citing senior administration officials.
Trump's "heart is right on this issue," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Sunday. "I think he's got a good understanding of what will sell, and every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He's been an outlier for years."
Senator Graham: "As long as Steven Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration we are going no where. He’s been an outlier for years.” pic.twitter.com/6aR42Jeiu7
— Alan He (@alanhe) January 21, 2018
Mark Krikorian, a notable proponent of curtailing immigration, tells the Times he doesn't subscribe to this "Svengali theory" and says Trump's "inclinations are hawkish on immigration." In Congress, Democrats and Republicans are frustrated and confused at a president "either unwilling or unable to articulate the immigration policy he wanted, much less understand the nuances of what it would involve," the Times reports. The resulting "paralysis" in Washington has complicated shutdown talks and "raised questions not only about Mr. Trump's grasp of the issue that animated his campaign and energizes his core supporters, but his leadership." Peter Weber
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Sunday roundly rejected President Trump's proposal that the Senate GOP go "nuclear" to end the government shutdown without Democrats' help. "I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our founding fathers," Durbin said in an interview on ABC. "We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure."
When Democrats controlled the Senate in years past, Durbin did not seem to hold this view. In 2014, for example, he defended Democrats' 2013 decision to invoke the nuclear option with judicial nominees by arguing Democrats had "no choice" because of Republican obstructionism.
But this time, Durbin has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on his side; McConnell said through a representative Sunday he "opposes changing the rules on legislation." Watch an excerpt of Durbin's comments on ABC below. Bonnie Kristian
Durbin on Trump calling on Republicans to end the filibuster: “That would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers.” (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/SazNujALdp
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 21, 2018
The White House public comment line is not accepting calls during the government shutdown, and the voicemail message has been updated to blame this change on Democrats.
"Thank you for calling the White House," the message says. "Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate."
— Favian Quezada (@FavianQuezada) January 20, 2018
Callers are encouraged to contact the White House online instead, because apparently the internet is better suited to weathering the shutdown storm. Bonnie Kristian