Politics & Policy

Preparing for the #SchumerShutdown

I’m not a fan of government shutdowns, as a matter of principle — we paid for this government, we ought to be getting its services — or as a political strategy, because it never works out well for Republicans.

Part of this is that most of the media portrays these fights as a simple morality tale between good and reasonable Democrats and mean and miserly Republicans, who want to keep kids on field trips locked out of the Smithsonian museums. But another key factor I suspect is that most Americans don’t want to be bothered with the details of government funding fights and prefer blaming everyone in Washington with a “pox on both your houses” attitude.

But I’ll concede two factors might make this shutdown a little different from the ones in 1995, 1996, and 2013.

For starters, with a Republican president controlling the executive branch, there will be a lot less “shutdown theater,” where government employees who are allegedly essential spend a lot of time and effort blocking the public from open air sites. The Department of the Interior already announced they’ll keep sites as open as possible.

“We fully expect the government to remain open, however in the event of a shutdown, national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. “Visitors who come to our nation’s capital will find war memorials and open air parks open to the public. Nationally, many of our national parks, refuges and other public lands will still allow limited access wherever possible.”

Second, the Democrats are really counting on the “Republicans control Washington” perception to shield them from the fact that House and Senate Republicans voted to keep the government open.

It requires 60 votes and/or no filibuster by the Democrats to pass a spending bill. As Leon Wolf wrote, “Republicans have already used reconciliation in order to pass the tax reform bill, and under Senate rules, reconciliation can be used only once per fiscal year. Therefore, Democrats in the Senate can filibuster any funding bill they dislike.”

Last night, Brendan Buck, counselor to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, laid out what is blocking a continuing resolution to keep the government open: “While it is a *very* smart take to point out Rs have a majority in the House and Senate, it is also purposefully obtuse to ignore that in the Senate a minority can filibuster and block any legislation . . . I stress that Democrats are asking for something entirely unrelated. Because, to be clear, Democrats have no underlying objection to the CR or CHIP. They are, quite openly, voting ‘no’ in an attempt to force action on something else. We are not jamming anything on Democrats they don’t support. We’re just saying keep the government open and fund children’s health insurance while we continue to work out a deal on DACA.”

This is where Democrats’ habitual rhetoric works against their position.

California senator Dianne Feinstein, yesterday: “Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. You don’t know. Necessary functions can cease.” Never mind that government shutdowns are structured so that necessary functions don’t cease; I’d love for her to elaborate on how government shutdowns kill people and how they make accidents happen.

But let’s assume for a moment that she’s right. If government shutdowns do kill people, why on earth wouldn’t Senate Democrats vote to pass the continuing resolution? Just how many Americans are they willing to kill to keep the DACA program as it is?

(As Remy would put it . . .  PEOPLE WILL DIE!)

By the way, did you notice that Feinstein is . . . either starting to have memory lapses or otherwise sudden inexplicable shifts in position?

January 10, from CNN’s Manu Raju: “Feinstein says she’s sorry to Grassley for not giving him a heads up about the release of the Fusion GPS transcript. “I meant to tell him, and I didn’t have a chance to tell him, and that concerns me,” she told us. “I just got pressured, and I didn’t do it.”

January 11, from BuzzFeed’s Emma Loop: “Just asked Feinstein about her comment yesterday about being “pressured” to release the Simpson transcript. “I made no statement to that effect,” she said. Me: but there are recordings of you saying you felt pressured. “I don’t believe there are. I don’t believe I said that.”

Then yesterday on the spending bill:

“I said in December that I wouldn’t vote for [the spending bill] without the Dream Act, and I won’t do so now,” she said in the statement.

But hours later, Feinstein told CNN in an interview that she had not made her mind up about whether to vote for the measure, saying: “Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. You don’t know. Necessary functions can cease.” She didn’t seem aware of her office’s earlier statement.

“I don’t know if we did today,” Feinstein said, looking toward an aide when asked about the news release.

“I don’t know how I would vote right now on a CR [continuing resolution], OK?” she added, ending the interview.

Is Senator Feinstein feeling okay?

The Cause of Life Is Winning in America Again

Some guy named “Michael R. Pence” writing in NRO today:

In short, life is winning in America again. It’s winning because of the policies of our administration, and because of the commitment and compassion of those who gather today in our nation’s capital, and in marches, meetings, and homes all across the country.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins.

Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis-pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who bring comfort and care to women, in cities and towns across this country.

And life is winning through the quiet counsel between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee on college campuses, where the truth is being told, and hope is defeating despair.

This guy’s a good writer, maybe we should bring him on full-time. What’s his day job again?

Checking In on the Bernie Sanders Revolution

In the latest issue of the magazine, I take a long look at “Our Revolution,” the grassroots activism group that the Bernie Sanders campaign morphed into after the Democratic primary. Luckily for non-subscribers, the article is out from behind the paywall:

In the 2017 elections, Our Revolution endorsed 113 candidates, of whom 44 won. (In order to be endorsed by Our Revolution, a candidate must be nominated by a local group, agree with Our Revolution’s platform, and pledge to run “a positive campaign” and “reject money from corporate interests.”) The group also supported a winning Maine voter referendum to expand Medicaid coverage in the state.

These were mostly low-profile races for state legislatures, mayoralties, city councils, and school boards. Some were in predictable parts of the country — four of the wins came on the Cambridge, Mass., city council, and another five candidates were elected to local offices in Somerville, Mass. And as [GOP strategist Brad] Todd notes, off-year local races have the lowest turnout of any elections in the four-year cycle, and are thus the lowest-hanging fruit for a band of committed ideological activists.

Some Republicans are not-so-quietly cheering the rise of Our Revolution, contending it will nominate candidates too extreme to win, even if the wind is at their backs in the midterm elections. “I think you’re going to see a lot of Bernie clones winning congressional primaries,” says Todd. “The more Berniecrats get nominated, the more likely it is that Republicans will hold the House.

[But] Jason Johnson, former chief strategist for Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign, isn’t convinced that Our Revolution and the broader swathe of Sanders supporters are tilting at windmills. “It scares the hell out of me,” Johnson says. “Nature abhors a vacuum. Last time I checked, 2016 did not spawn an organized movement of champions of liberty. What seems radical to the over-65 crowd that has comprised the GOP base looks an awful lot like the future to the young radicals who are ‘feeling the Bern.’ And as of this moment our response –  at least at scale — is nada.”

ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to join the Ricochet podcast later today. Late next week I’ll be in California to cover the winter meeting of the Koch Seminar Network.

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