Congressional Democrats once vowed to never shut down the government over legislative issues such as immigration, but they seem ready to switch strategies during the Trump era.
Normally, the government’s funding runs out from time to time, and congressional leaders have to agree on raising the debt limit to extend spending.
The next deadline for Congress and the president to agree on budget terms and funding levels is December 8.
Such a deadline usually means both parties negotiate new budget and borrowing terms. Negotiations are usually focused tightly on fiscal issues to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government.
But this time, Democrats are hoping to force President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to grant amnesty to certain illegal immigrants, or else face a damaging federal government shutdown that could hurt Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections a year from now.
The White House is clearly irked at the Democratic maneuvering behind the scenes to force amnesty for young adults who were brought to the United States, illegally, as children.
In early September, Trump rescinded former President Barack Obama’s order temporarily protecting such illegal immigrants. The order was known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But the revocation doesn’t take effect until March 5, 2018.
On Tuesday morning, Trump fired off a warning shot just as he was to meet with the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, respectively.
“No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold millions of people hostage,” said Sen. Schumer in 2013.
“Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working,” Trump tweeted. “Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”
The last line prompted Pelosi and Schumer to cancel. Still, Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Trump even kept empty chairs for Pelosi and Schumer open, letting the press take in the sight.
It was a public swipe against the Democrats, perhaps effective should the minority party somehow close the federal government down for a bit. And Republican officials note that Schumer, during the 2013 shutdown, blasted Republican House Speaker John Boehner for negotiating on unrelated topics with Republican critics of Obamacare during the fall 2013 shutdown.
Schumer said negotiating to end a shutdown using issues such as immigration was akin to hostage-taking.
“You know, we could do the same thing on immigration,” Schumer told ABC News in 2013. “We believe strongly in immigration reform. We could say, ‘We’re shutting down the government, we’re not gonna raise the debt ceiling, until you pass immigration reform.’ It would be governmental chaos.”
About the same time in September 2013, Schumer said, according to the Observer, “No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold millions of people hostage. That’s what the other side is doing. That’s wrong, and we can’t give in to that.”
Now, Schumer and Pelosi appear to be angling try to get immigration reform, in the form of a permanent codification of DACA.
Congressional Democrats are under heavy pressure from liberal groups to get a deal on DACA, and soon. There are almost 700,000 people in the United States now in DACA.
But despite Trump’s willingness to deal on DACA in exchange for a border wall — at some point in the future — the White House criticized Schumer for changing principles on efforts to avoid shutdowns.
“In the past, Chuck Schumer has repeatedly made clear that he opposes government spending bills with strings attached,” said Hogan Gidley, deputy press secretary for Trump, in an emailed statement to LifeZette. “We hope Democrats follow Sen. Schumer’s lead and not hold government funding hostage to their own pet legislative projects, which would jeopardize our national security. Government spending bills should fully fund our military, homeland security, and all essential operations to protect the American people’s prosperity and safety.”