Whose fault? This time, Senate Democrats

ShutdownSo now yet another manufactured crisis has ended, and we’ll see if we have another one by Feb. 8.

Here’s how the process should work: Congress should prepare a budget once a year – once – that spells out the nation’s taxing and spending priorities, and then it should make sure its numbers add up. Instead, it lurches from one unnecessary deadline to another, putting off the hard choices and adding debt. This past week’s was the 113th time since 1998 that Congress has passed a temporary funding measure, and this one’s tax cuts will add $31 billion to the deficit – about $100 for every American.

Both sides are at fault for Washington’s toxic atmosphere, but Senate Democrats are mostly to blame for this particular shutdown. They filibustered the funding bill in order to gain concessions for the 700,000 young people brought to America illegally as children – the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. In the end, all they got in return was a promise that the issue will be debated in the Senate, which was probably going to happen anyway.

As much as I want the DACA beneficiaries to become American citizens, this was not the way to do it. A vote on keeping the government’s doors open shouldn’t have been tied to a difficult issue like illegal immigration. Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House, and this past week Senate Democrats were reminded that losing elections has consequences.

I’m not sure what they were ever going to accomplish besides appeal to the party’s base, which is already fired up. Democrats have been winning special election after special election. They even won Alabama’s Senate seat.

They’d be better off simply letting history follow its course rather than play these games. Democrats need to flip 24 House seats in this year’s midterm elections to regain control. Post World-War II, the president’s party loses an average of 25 House seats in midterms, and it’s worse when the president has low approval ratings. President Trump’s are historically low, and he’s not going to stop tweeting.

Arkansas’ delegation: Wins and losses

How did Arkansas’ congressional delegation fare?

– Rep. French Hill, who represents central Arkansas’ 2nd District, won points by quickly announcing he wouldn’t accept a paycheck while the government was shut down. He can afford it, but still it was smart PR.

– Sen. Tom Cotton won more than he lost, but he did lose a little. He continues to gain Trump’s favor, the most valuable currency a Republican officeholder can own right now. He earned a lot of attention (perhaps the second most valuable currency) by becoming embroiled in the controversy over Trump’s alleged description of Haiti and African countries. But instead of trying to depict what Trump said, and not very persuasively, he should have said simply that a president’s comments during a private White House meeting shouldn’t be blabbed to the world. Which they should not have been.

– For Rep. Steve Womack, who represents Northwest Arkansas’ 4th District – the jury’s still out. He also tried to explain what Trump said even though he wasn’t in the meeting, and misspoke while doing it. That’s old news. More importantly, he’s taking over as chairman of the House Budget Committee at a time when the process is in disarray. He’s climbing onto a bucking bronco, which means the expectations are low: just eight seconds in a rodeo, and the equivalent in politics. If he hangs on, he’ll look pretty good, but the fall can be hard.

Now that the shutdown has ended?

Congress faces two deadlines now: Feb. 8 to fund the government again, and March 5 to find a solution for those 700,000 young people.

The Feb. 8 deadline probably will be met by kicking the can down the road and spending more of your grandchildren’s money.

But the March 5 deadline, originally set by Trump, has been blurred because a court has ordered the government to again accept DACA applications, and it’s not clear how the Trump administration will react.

Without an urgent manufactured crisis, will Congress act? Kicking the can down the road will be easier in that case, too. Finding a solution would be the right thing to do, but it’s an election year, and those 700,000 young people don’t vote, because they can’t.

By Steve Brawner

© 2018 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Related: Can Rep. Steve Womack bring balance to the Budget Committee?

Wanted: An open golden door


Is your organization looking for a speaker to talk about what’s happening in state or national politics? Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist who appears in 10 newspapers and is a regular guest on AETN’s “Arkansas Week.” He’s cheap but not free.

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