Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Cave" Is

The Democrats' promise to demand DACA legislation or block a continuing resolution to keep the government open lasted less than 72 hours, with no actual DACA legislation, but a promise of one in the next three weeks. A promise from...Mitch McConnell, the guy who happily stole Merrick Garland's Supreme Court seat and got away with it.  There are two schools of thought on this: one, OBAMA SCHUMER FAILED US, two, we took what we can get.

There are an awful lot of people in school one right now.

It’s morally reprehensible and political malpractice. It’s [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer’s job to keep his caucus together and stand up for progressive values and he failed on both fronts,” Ezra Levin, a leader of the Indivisible Project, told TPM shortly after the vote. “We’re going to be holding the Democrats accountable who caved.”

Levin’s group was among those on a conference call late Monday morning encouraging Democrats to stand strong on the vote. When TPM informed them during the call that Senate leaders had decided against doing so, the news was met with a stunned silence. After a few seconds Frank Sharry, the head of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice, weighed to say he had “a lot of concern” about its details.

They grew a pair on Friday night and they couldn’t find them today,” Sharry told TPM in a follow-up conversation after the vote. “Friday night, Democrats stood together and said ‘we’re going to take on this racist bully.’ … By Monday morning they were climbing down for very little in return. Come on, Democrats.”

Sharry said he and other advocates wanted Democrats to stare down President Trump and the GOP for the next few days to let the pressure build and try to force them to the negotiating table once again. Instead, Trump refused to negotiate — and Democrats were the ones to crumble.

What were Democrats thinking?” he said. “We’re pissed.”

He’s not the only one.

“Enough is enough. We cannot rely on empty promises from those who have already proven to play politics with the lives of Dreamers. Today, Republicans — and too many Democrats — in Congress betrayed our American values and allowed bigotry and fear to prevail,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lorella Praeli said in a statement. “We will be watching, and will make sure voters this November know if their representatives stood for Dreamers or for their deportation.”

The Democrats need to stand strong,” said Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden.

Outside groups weren’t the only ones who were furious. A number of Senate Democratic offices felt that their leadership had led them into a situation where they had no good options, hurting moderates by forcing a shutdown and then hurting the entire party with its base by capitulating so fast.

More than a dozen Senate Democrats broke with party leaders to vote against the bill, including a number of potential presidential candidates, a sign they know exactly where the base is. While most of them declined to take shots at their leaders, they clearly weren’t happy with the sudden about-face, warning not to trust McConnell’s promises.

“I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever and I believe it would be foolhardy to believe he made a commitment,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) told reporters after the vote.

 Erik Loomis talks us down and gives us the case for school two.

1) CHIP is a huge policy win for Democrats. You might say that Republicans had to deal with this anyway. No they didn’t. It’s a party of nihilists who don’t care if children die. Taking CHIP off the table for 6 years is a positive win.

2) Taking CHIP off the table undermines Republican leverage for the next battle. They have no policy position that Democrats must vote for going forward.

3) The deal is only for a few weeks. On February 8, if the Republicans have not dealt with Dreamers, then Democrats can shut the government down again, this time with the very clear narrative that Mitch McConnell is a liar and that they gave Republicans a chance to fix the problem and they are all lying liars who lie.

4) Despite the incredibly inhuman injustice of our immigration policy, no Dreamers will be deported before February 8.

Now, if February 8 comes and Democratic senators back off of a confrontation to protect Dreamers, that’s really bad. But this gives another few weeks to ratchet up the pressure on them and on Republicans to get this done.

And I hate to have to correct Erik here.  The CHIP funding wasn't a huge win, and it's still on the table because while the CR bill did fund the CHIP program, Jonathan Capehart discovered that the CR eliminated funding for the community health centers that provide CHIP services.

"In their effort to continue dismantling Obamacare, the Republican continuing resolution does not include funding for community clinics and private hospitals that care for large numbers of low-income patients,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) told me. The impact of this budgetary slight was made plain by one of her constituents in an email she shared with me.

Wanted to touch base about CR that doesn’t include health Center funding. St. John’s will lose 10% of our budget ($8.4 million a year). We’ll have to close 6 of our 15 clinics in your district. 
It’s also self defeating to fund CHIP but not health centers since most kids with CHIP receive their care at community health centers. So they may have CHIP but they won’t be able to access services because their Health Center is closed.

That message came from Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles. When I got him on the phone, he told me that his community health center serves 100,000 “unduplicated” patients, 48,000 of whom are children. “About half of them would lose access to health care services,” Mangia said. “Where are those kids going to go for health care? They have CHIP, but their doctor has been laid off. It’s so cynical, their argument. And disingenuous.”

So what do I think?  I think the Democrats got screwed badly, and there's not much they can do about it.  The notion that Dems got a win on CHIP is pretty much garbage here, but they took the deal anyway.  So no, I don't trust the Republicans, and I don't trust the competence of Dems.  They should have seen this poison pill coming and they didn't.

So now, if I'm Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, I use those three weeks I just got to put in the screws and finish the job. My plan would be to put the House GOP's utterly repugnant Securing America's Future Act to a vote and pass it. I put that legislation in the Senate and when the Dems say no, I say "Well, we put a DACA bill on the table and the Dems rejected it.  All bets are off."  Then I tinker around the edges of the SAF bill and include it in the CR and see how long the Dems last before they pass it.  As a reminder of what SAF entails:

Republicans are essentially asking Democrats to trade the legalization of 700,000 unauthorized immigrants for the criminalization of all others, banning 2.6 million legal immigrants over the next decade, the elimination of almost all family sponsorship preference categories and the diversity visa lottery, deporting tens of thousands of asylum seekers, huge increases in border security spending, a massive new regulatory program that applies to every employee and employer in the country (“E-Verify”), and so much else. This bill has no chance of becoming law, but it is a remarkable illustration of how far apart the parties are on this issue.

That's where I see this fight going.  I hope I'm wrong and the Dems smell this trap coming from a mile off and demand a clean DREAM Act bill up front...and the restoration of community health center funding.

But they've already folded once on that demand.  It's difficult to see them standing too long on it again.  The best outcome may be another series of punts heading toward the end of March, but who knows what the GOP will sneak into the CR bills in the interim, and that deadline squeezes Democrats too.  I don't know, it's possible that the House GOP could go rogue and trash the whole deal themselves and save the Democrats here, forcing a clean CR plus DACA protections with Pelosi's help (oh, and health center funding back too.)  That's the win for Democrats.

It depends on which two of the scenarios we get to first, the SAF bill or the DACA bill, and both of those actually depend on the House, not the Senate.

We'll see.  Again, I said the Dems were in a bad position for a reason, and they have little leverage when the GOP has already shown they're more than happy to take health care away from millions and deport millions more. The best solution is to take the House and Senate back of course.  But between now and January 2019 when a new Congress would be sworn in, a lot of damage can still be done.

It probably will be.  Whether or not America will still make the choice to vote the GOP out, I don't know.  We certainly didn't in 2016.

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