Last Friday, after battling over funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in an effort to affect Democratic senators’ immigration priorities, the federal government ran out of money and shut down. Congress stayed in session over the weekend, but on Monday non-essential government employees were furloughed, with the federal employees that did come in to work doing so for free.
The shutdown didn’t last long, however. Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed just three days after closing the government down to a temporary spending bill that would put the federal system back on its feet for three weeks while a long term budget is negotiated, as well as funding CHIP for the next six years.
Funding CHIP is an almost universally popular move, but the steps taken to put money in its pockets aren’t nearly as popular. Both parties blamed each other for the government shutdown, with the Republicans branding it the “Schumer Shutdown” in reference to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY. Democrats responded by blaming President Donald Trump, sticking primarily to claiming this as the latest example of Trump’s failure to live up to his promise of being a great dealmaker.
As with most things in Washington, the immediate response to the government reopening this week was to try to determine which party had “won” the shutdown. In this case, it seems like the Republican Party did so, though not in a resounding fashion.
Government shutdowns are historically unpopular. The last one, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over a then-extremely unpopular Affordable Care Act, drastically reduced approval of Congress. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was the Democrats’ primary reason for forcing a government shutdown, and with 70 percent of Americans supporting a path for so-called “Dreamers” to achieve legal residency, the plan felt like it might have made sense.
However, polling going into last Friday also showed that only 42 percent of Americans felt that the DACA program was worth shutting the government down over. New York Times columnist and writer David Brooks explained in a column on Monday.
The other problem the Democrats encountered is that shutting down the government was off-brand. Regardless of that fact, many on the left struggled with the decision to end the shutdown on Monday. Senator Kamala Harris, D-CA, voted against the measure. The Democrats that did vote yes did so in part because of a pledge from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, to work towards an immigration vote in the near future. Harris told CNN that “it was foolhardy” to believe McConnell made “any commitment whatsoever.”
Outside of Congress, progressives spoke with more vitriol. CREDO Action political director Murshed Zaheed called Schumer “the worst negotiator in Washington.” Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called the decision to cave the reason “why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything.”
Some Democrats were more optimistic, however. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown voted in favor of reopening the government, pinning his decision on the word of McConnell.