- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2018

The government careened into a shutdown Saturday morning as Democrats made good on their threat to withhold votes to fund the government until Republicans agree to grant citizenship rights to illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”

The White House labeled Democrats “obstructionist losers” and said talks on immigration won’t start again until the government reopens.

Four Republicans assisted 44 Democrats Democrats in mounting the filibuster, blocking a bill that would have kept the government open four more weeks, which would have bought time for more negotiations.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer insisted they were close to a deal, saying he even put President Trump’s border wall “on the table” as a potential exchange for legalizing millions of illegal immigrants during a meeting earlier in the day, but he said the president wouldn’t agree to those terms.

Republicans said it made little sense to shut down the government over a Dreamer deadline that doesn’t truly hit until March 5, and said the result in the meantime will mean troops going without pay and civilians furloughed across most agencies.

“A government shutdown was 100 percent avoidable. Now it’s inevitable,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the clock struck midnight without a deal.

Democratic leaders said they were confident Mr. Trump would take the blame, saying his negotiating strategy only made things worse.

“This will be called the Trump shutdown,” Mr. Schumer said — drawing laughter from Republican senators, who are convinced the “Schumer shutdown” has a better ring to it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr. Trump won’t even restart negotiations on immigration until Democrats agree to reopen the government, undercutting the logic for the shutdown in the first place.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators,” the spokeswoman said. “When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”

The House had already passed a four-week “continuing resolution” to keep the government open, and that could have averted the shutdown. But Democrats, under intense pressure from their liberal base to insist on tying immigration to the shutdown, rejected that proposal.

Mr. Schumer had suggested a few-day spending extension, but that didn’t allow enough time to write a bill even once there was a deal in principle, the GOP said.

Mr. McConnell said he’ll soon try to at least get a 20-day spending extension to reopen the government, but said it will take Democratic cooperation to get that done.

Five Democrats from conservative-leaning states voted with Republicans to keep the government open, but the vast majority had pledged in the run-up to the vote to stand with the Dreamers, who’d demanded the shutdown showdown.

Indeed, Friday night’s vote was the latest demonstration of the power of the immigrant-rights movement — and Dreamers in particular — within the Democratic Party.

The Dreamers were the ones who insisted Democrats set a self-imposed Jan. 19 deadline for action on their legal status.

Yet the actual firm deadline for Dreamers is March 5, which is when Mr. Trump’s phaseout of the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty, protecting some 690,000 Dreamers, begins to expire. More than 100 Dreamers are losing status each day right now, but those are ones who didn’t manage to renew their status by Homeland Security’s Oct. 5 deadline.

Deemed the most sympathetic figures in the immigration debate, most Dreamers were brought to the U.S. by parents with little say in the decision, and many don’t have substantive memories of their home countries.

They began “coming out” as illegal immigrants in the last decade, and quickly became a political force, earning invitations to the State of the Union address, meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama and addressing the Democratic National Convention.

They came close to a solution in 2010, when legislation known as the Dream Act — which they took their name from — cleared the House and came close to passing the Senate, falling in a GOP-led filibuster.

Many of them were in the galleries that day in 2010, weeping as the vote swung against them.

They were back again this week, in the galleries both Thursday and Friday.

Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who has led the fight on their behalf for years, said it was a travesty for Congress to have not solved their situation.

“To say we’re in no hurry — well, we may not be as senators and congressmen, but these young people are in a hurry to find out whether or not they have a life. That’s what it comes down to,” Mr. Durbin said.

Republicans countered that they, too, wanted to grant long-term certainty to Dreamers, but didn’t want a new amnesty to invite another wave of illegal immigration. They demanded more border security and other policy changes be tied to any Dreamer legislation.

“We cannot deal with the issue of individuals in our country illegally … and ignore how it happened in the first place,” said Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican.


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