Saturday, January 27, 2018

Editorial: Lack of Trust Shut Down Government

Donald Trump never had a mandate. He barely won the election in 2016 with narrow-margin victories in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and those margins, totaling less than 80,000 votes overall, could be explained by faulty vote-counting (as well as voter suppression). And remember, Hillary Clinton was the People’s Choice by more than 2.8 million votes. So, with Trump a minority president and Republicans holding narrow majorities in the House and Senate, and needing at least 10 Democratic votes to overcome a Senate filibuster, one might expect some compromise with Democrats. If so, one would be disappointed with the actions of Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell so far.

Trump billed himself as the ultimate dealmaker, but on Jan. 9 he called on Democrats and Republicans to come up with a bipartisan deal to preserve the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protected nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought here illegally by their parents. DACA has bipartisan appeal, and when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called Trump on Jan. 11 to tell him they had made a deal, which included the DACA fix and and funds for Trump’s border wall, he told them to come over to the White House. But by the time they got to the Oval Office, anti-immigrant zealots on the White House staff, such as Chief of Staff John Kelly and Stephen Miller, had stacked the room with hardliners such as Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.). Trump then blew the Graham-Durbin deal out of the water, throwing in his notorious diatribe about not wanting any more immigrants from “shithole countries,” preferring instead immigrants from places like Norway.

It wasn’t the first time Lying Donnie had reneged on a deal with Democrats and it wouldn’t be the last. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) thought they had reached a deal to protect the so-called “Dreamers” in a dinner meeting with Trump Sept. 13, only to find Trump backing off from it after his staff learned of the concessions. Schumer made another attempt to strike a deal with Trump the afternoon before the shutdown, but failed, as Schumer explained, “He did not press his party or Congress to accept it. Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, without the commitment of the president, would not agree to accept anything either.”

Instead, the Republicans pushed a continuing resolution that would keep the government running through Feb. 16 and reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another six years but left DACA and other Democratic priorities, such as reauthorization of funding for community health centers, medical care for at risk-pregnant women and infants, and a special diabetes research program hanging, with no assurance that Republicans would ever revisit those programs.

Republicans immediately accused the Democrats of planning to shut down the government, which would block reauthorization of the kids’ health care and stop pay for military service members overseas, all because, they said, Dems cared more about illegal immigrants than they did about native-born citizens.

Democrats realized they were being set up, and they decided to stand and fight.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) noted that the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program well in advance of the expiration of the program on Sept. 30, but Republican leaders wouldn’t bring the CHIP reauthorization bill to the Senate floor last fall because they were focused on the bill to cut taxes for billionaires and corporations. Republicans finally included CHIP in the continuing resolution, but they ignored reauthorization of community health centers that serve millions of Americans, Medicare extenders that expired in October and are critical for rural hospitals, and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program that supports pregnant women and families that are at risk, among other programs, Casey noted.

Sen. Claire McKaskill (D-Mo.) introduced a motion to continue paying military during the shutdown, as Congress did in a 2013 shutdown, but it required unanimous consent in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R) blocked it.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) who lost both legs in combat during the Iraq war, told the Senate Jan. 20, “I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft-dodger. And I have a message for cadet bone spurs: If you cared about our military, you'd stop baiting Kim Jong Un into a war that could put 85,000 American troops and millions of innocent civilians in danger."

After the contiuing resolution failed in the Senate, settign up the shutdown, Republicans framed it as an immigrant vs. American issue, a clear attempt to whip up racial divisions. “The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked,” President Trump tweeted Jan. 21. McConnell said his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Schumer, was “playing with all of those lives over the issue of illegal immigration.” A Trump campaign official, Michael Glassner, lauded the president for keeping Americans safe from “evil, illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes against lawful US citizens.”

The first day of the shutdown, on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, the president’s re-election campaign starting running an ad approved by Trump that accused Democrats of being complicit with any murders done by illegal immigrants.

Again, the “Dreamers” are young people who grew up in the US, know little of their native land and have stayed in school and out of trouble, got their diplomas and then got a job, or went to college or joined the military. But Trump and his minions still can’t see any difference between Dreamers and drug dealers, rapists and murderers, even though studies by the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 and the Cato Institute in 2017 found that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a fraction of the rate of American citizens.

Democrats finally agreed to support the continuing resolution through Feb. 8 after McConnell agreed to let the DACA bill get a Senate vote, but he has reneged on such promises before, and there is no guarantee Ryan will allow a House vote. Ryan is believed reluctant to allow an immigration bill to proceed in the House, for fear of a challenge to his leadership by white supremacist Republicans.

Voters must enforce accountability on the Grand Oligarch Party, and at least 29 House Republican incumbents are opting for retirement instead of facing that accountability in November.

Randy Bryce, a Democratic union ironworker who is challenging Speaker Ryan’s re-election in Wisconsin, is on point: “Paul Ryan treated this shutdown like an insider political game, using people’s jobs, Dreamer’s futures, and children’s health insurance as bargaining chips. Now, even as thousands of workers are facing suspension without pay and communities across the country are set to lose access to services, Paul Ryan is still playing games, trying to pin the blame for the shutdown on others. We need politicians in D.C. who won’t play games and who take responsibility for their actions.”

Democrats have plenty of positive reasons for voters to put them in control of Congress. But, for the time being, punishing Trump and Republican congressional leaders who set up this pointless government gridlock is a good motivator for Democrats.

In the meantime, call your senators at 202-224-3121 to tell them to hold the line for people’s needs when the next CR comes along. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, Febuary 15, 2018

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