Schumer Shutdown? Trump Shutdown? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. The brief U.S. government shutdown that started at midnight on Friday and ended on Monday won’t even rate an asterisk in history books.
Let’s be clear about this: The shutdown was a joke.
After a telling 81-18 vote in the Senate to reopen the government after just three days of stoppage, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins explained what was at stake; she said the 16-day 2013 government shutdown cost the U.S. economy $1.5 billion a day. “When government shuts down, it represents the ultimate failure to govern,” she said.
For their huge gamble, Senate Democrats won an assurance from Republican leaders that a bipartisan proposal on the fate of nearly 800,000 “Dreamers” — unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who have since obtained a two-year work permit and protection from deportation — would get an up or down vote amid a broader immigration debate.
That means a vote in the Senate but not necessarily a vote in the House. In other words, Congress has its work cut out for it as American politics is as divisive as it’s been in decades. Before the shutdown, a CNN/SSRS poll found more Americans would fault Democrats than Republicans for a shutdown, while polls by Politico/Morning Consult and The Washington Post/ABC News found that voters would blame Republicans more than Democrats.
U.S. government shutdowns like the longer ones in 1995-1996 over government spending and in 2013 over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act always seem like stunts for congressional leaders who should know better. When military pay is at risk, these stunts just seem childish. Military personnel are paid on the first and 15th of each month, so they were days away from having any pay freeze affect rent payments or food on a table. But they were still expected to show up for work without pay Monday.
You know whose pay wasn’t at risk during the shutdown? All those congressional “leaders.”
Beyond some anxious hours for thousands of federal workers and some discussion that government Twitter accounts might temporarily be dormant, this shutdown didn’t amount to much. If it didn’t become the “stupidest shutdown ever,” as Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Bernstein said it would if it went on much longer, it came close. It certainly made everyone involved look really bad.
Republicans and Democrats spent the weekend pointing fingers at each other, and President Donald Trump spent it at the White House out of public view but reportedly making phone calls to Republicans. His press office shared several photographs of Trump, including one at a clean desk in the Oval Office on what might have been one such phone call — or might have just been staged.
That may be the most fitting image for this shutdown: all show and zero substance. Then again, if an immigration deal can ultimately be reached under President Trump, that photo will be forgotten, too.
For days, Republicans blasted the Democratic Party, saying as Trump did, “Democrats are turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens.” And Democrats blasted Republicans, and Trump, because the GOP controls Congress and the White House but couldn’t hash out a deal to avoid a stoppage.
Who’s at fault? Depends who you ask. The whole thing stinks, and the next U.S. government shutdown could happen as soon as Feb. 8. Congress seems poised to discuss Dreamers, border security and immigration, but that seemed inevitable anyway. Beyond discussion, who knows what will happen. If congressional leaders head into another shutdown, they’re the ones who shouldn’t get paid.
This editorial was written by the editorial staff at the San Diego Union-Triobune. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.
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