The Shutdown Crumbles
It may seem like a long time ago now, but when the week began, the government was shut down, lacking enough votes in the Senate to pass a continuing resolution to keep it funded. The sticking point was the fate of the DREAMers, approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children and have grown up here. However, Democrats faltered on Monday, deciding by the afternoon that their position was untenable, and a deal was struck to reopen the government with a new continuing resolution that would fund the government through February 8th.
As part of the deal, one of the Republican “hostages”, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) was refunded for another six years (as you’ll recall, the majority party ignored the expiration of the program at the end of September, effectively converting the fate of nine million children into a budget bargaining chip – no pun intended). The only concession to DREAMers was Mitch McConnell’s word that he “intended” to bring a compromise bill to the floor. Many noted that his word has been worthless in the recent past.
Reactions were swift, often vehement but also varied. Indivisible along with other groups issued a strong condemnation, saying “This is not the time for Democrats to cave on their principles.” Many were angry. However, some noted that the leverage Democrats presumed to have wasn’t, in their opinion, enough to push the Republicans to give in. The threat to Democratic Senators up for reelection in red states this year was a real negative for Democrats; Republicans didn’t seem to mind letting the government shut down. Whether it would have hurt them over time we can only guess.
It’s also important to note that yet another CR will need to be passed by February 8th. And the DACA protection for DREAMers ends in early March. The pressures that got us into the shutdown are still there and the government still doesn’t have long-term funding – because Republicans have been content to fund it through a series of CRs instead of passing a budget. It should also be noted that this has ongoing, serious impacts on how government agencies conduct business: they can’t plan for spending more than a month out, which is a significant problem.
The White House’s Hostage Demands
On Thursday the White House released it’s offer for ending the DREAMer stalemate. They proposed protection for 1.8 million DACA-eligible immigrants, which is a better offer than protecting the 800,000 DREAMers. However, in exchange they’re asking for $25B for Trump’s wall along with large cuts to family-based immigration and severe cuts to immigration overall. DREAMer advocates and others came out against the deal immediately. It remains to be seen how negotiations proceed. The offer may be an effort to deflect blame for the fate of the DREAMers rather than a serious position. It’s also possible that Trump will change or undercut it, sooner or later in the process. It’s important to let our Members of Congress know what our position is. As for the negotiations, stay tuned.
Obstruction of Justice, continued
Also on Thursday, the New York Times reported that Trump had asked his lawyer, Donald McGahn II, to fire Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible wrongdoing by the Trump campaign. The Times reported that McGahn refused and Mueller was left alone. This appears to be one more instance of Trump’s attempt to obstruct investigation into wrongdoing by his campaign. Republicans have continued to be largely non committal about legislation to protect Mueller – we need to press them.
Meanwhile, California Representative and Trump accomplice Devin Nunes continued to try to smear Mueller with innuendo, this time claiming to have a memo that criticizes FBI conduct in surveillance of the Trump campaign. The memo apparently uses selective and misleading information to build its case. As the week came to a close Trump was asking the Justice Department to release the memo. The Department has chosen not to, saying that doing so would be “extraordinarily reckless.” Trump may try to use the memo as an excuse to interfere in DOJ affairs, again seeking to use the Department to protect himself. Let’s be clear: this is completely unAmerican, a total attack on the DOJ’s independence and another sign of Trump’s authoritarianism and unfitness for office.
Good News from Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled. Monday that the state’s districts had been illegally gerrymandered and ordered that they be redrawn. This has huge implications for Democrats, as the state was one of the worst examples of gerrymandering in the country, with 13 out of 18 seats going to Republicans in the last election, despite Democrats having received slightly more than half the votes. Republicans have appealed to the Supreme Court, but it’s uncertain that they’ll hear the case, since it’s a state and not federal ruling.
Meanwhile, the campaign of Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s heavily red 18th Congressional district special election (to be held March 13) is attracting lots of attention from both parties. The national GOP is plainly worried, pouring money into the campaign and trying to paint Lamb as a Pelosi liberal. Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor, has in fact criticized Pelosi’s leadership and seems focused on protecting healthcare and social security from Republican attacks. A recent poll showed him only 3 points behind his opponent in a district that Trump won by 20 points. A Lamb win would send a clear and frightening message to Republicans that the blue wave is headed their way.
This is a great week to keep up the calls and to get involved in turning other districts blue. Republican polling numbers have started to slightly improve and, though things are still looking good for us, we can’t take anything for granted – especially as the Koch brothers just announced they’ll pour $300-400 million into this year’s election. It will take all of us, working hard, to win. Our country is under attack and we must take back the House and Senate this year!
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org.
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook.
Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news.
To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, here’s a summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.