While the government shutdown last week was ended within a rather quick timeframe, there is another vote on government funding coming on February 8th. With the most recent stopgap bill lacking the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) fix that Democrats shut down the government for, they are still looking for a victory on immigration. In fact, the last stopgap bill was passed by the Senate with the promise from Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell that there would be negotiations and a vote on a DACA fix.
While many people were upset that the Democrats ended the shutdown without a vote, there is also reason to believe that the Democrats put themselves in a better position for the upcoming budget vote. In the process of ending the latest shutdown, CHIP was funded which reduces future Republican leverage, as I noted in my previous article. However, this doesn’t mean that Republicans are without options concerning building a narrative against Democrats if they shut down the government again. These options include the usual GOP talking points like military salaries or certain parts of military contracting. Moreover, community health centers have also yet to be officially reauthorized for funding.
Interestingly, this question of leverage may now not be a question at all. Senate Democrats seem to be giving up on their demand that a DACA fix be part of the upcoming budget . Dick Durbin, the Minority Whip, now even says that these issues are seen on “separate paths.” Such a concession will allow the budget to move forward without having to address one of the most contentious issues of this legislative session and it puts the Senate Democrats at odds with House Democrats as they have yet to give up on a DACA deal. While this may seem like a misstep on the part of the Democrats as it diminishes the importance they have placed on the welfare of “Dreamers” (DACA recipients), this puts pressure on Senator McConnell, along with other Republican leaders, to keep their word. This would mean that the Republicans still need to move forward with negotiations and a vote on DACA or risk the damage of a very public narrative forming against them. However, the damage from such a narrative might be more appealing than making a DACA deal that Trump’s hardline base does not like.
Much of the posturing in the Senate, and soon in the House, on the issue of DACA, seems to be geared towards altering the midterms . Beyond the short-term alteration in position, the Democrats’ ultimate goal is to force Republicans to address DACA before voters potentially change the control of both arms of our legislature. There are supposedly 30 senators working on a bipartisan fix for DACA that might overcome the more right-wing Republican senators who currently oppose any amnesty. The House would likely have more trouble passing such legislation because of the Freedom Caucus, but those votes can be overcome as well if moderate Republican are concerned enough with their midterm performance. The Democrats want to force Republicans to make some deal on DACA or undergo the public backlash from deporting the Dreamers when their protections being to expire in March (only if current recipients don’t apply for a renewal before the deadline).
In short, the political maneuvering with regards to DACA and the government’s budget has only just begun. In the upcoming weeks, we should expect the Republicans to be adjusting to their new freedom in the Senate and trying to work on a DACA solution, not only with the Democrats but also the President. Given the consequences of a DACA deal, namely the possible backlash from Trump Republicans in the midterms, it might be best for Senator McConnell to go back on his word or let the President take the wheel once more on immigration negotiations so that GOP senators can deflect blame if something goes wrong.