- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2018

Democrats ended their filibuster Monday and agreed to reopen the government, ending a three-day work shutdown that embarrassed Washington and only deepened the gridlock that has gripped Capitol Hill.

It’s not clear what Democrats got out of the shutdown. Republican leaders agreed to a timetable for debating immigration, though they said they were going to do that anyway.

Republicans said they managed to erase some of the shutdown stigma that has plagued them in recent years, after they provided the vast majority of the votes for keeping the government open through Feb. 8 and for renewing the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years.

Still, they said there would be no celebrating after three days of shame.

“There are no winners here today — I want to make that clear,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican. “This is not a moment to pat ourselves on the back, not even close. We very much need to heed the lessons of what just happened here.”

The House voted 266-150 to reopen the government, with Democrats providing nearly all of the opposition. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she was one of those voting to keep the government shut down.

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In the Senate, the vote was more bipartisan, at 81-18.

Democrats forced the shutdown after intense pressure from immigrant rights activists and liberal pressure groups, who said Congress shouldn’t approve any money for government operations unless it also granted eventual citizenship rights to illegal immigrant Dreamers.

Talks over the fate of Dreamers stalled, though, and Democrats made good on their threat.

Party leaders placed blame on President Trump, saying he was an untrustworthy negotiating partner.

“These days, you never know who to deal with when it comes to Republicans,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Most analysts, though, said Democrats were the chief culprits — particularly after they ended up approving a bill that was close to the legislation they blocked last week. The difference was a shorter period for government funding.

The activists who pushed the shutdown said Democrats bungled by relenting far too early.

“Today’s cave by some Senate Democrats was not only a stunning display of moral and political cowardice, it was a strategically incoherent move that demonstrates precisely why so many believe the Democratic Party doesn’t stand for anything,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director at Democracy for America.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, did promise his colleagues a full debate on immigration in coming weeks. He said if talks don’t produce a bill by Feb. 8 — the next spending deadline — he will put an immigration bill on the floor and have a freewheeling debate. He said that guarantee disappears if Democrats force another shutdown next month.

Democrats said that procedural commitment was a significant victory and predict they will emerge victorious from the immigration debate.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the Dreamers from being deported,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who led the Friday filibuster but flipped his vote Monday to support reopening the government.

At the White House, Mr. Trump made clear he is looking to sign a bill that couples amnesty for Dreamers with funding for a border wall, curtailing the chain of family migration and eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery.

“We will make a long-term deal on illegal immigration if, and only if, it’s good for our country,” the president said in a statement.

The president’s role going forward remains murky, however.

Democrats said they aren’t sure they can strike a deal with him, and even some Republicans suggested that Mr. McConnell’s decision to move a bill no matter what was a signal to the White House.

“He’s telling the White House we want something the president can sign, and we’ll work with you. But we’re moving forward,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.

But Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican who has been negotiating alongside Mr. Graham, said the president remains the biggest player.

“If the president doesn’t support a bill, then we have accomplished nothing. So we need a product that the president can support,” he said. “That’s what this entire process has to be about — not just passing a bill out of the Senate, not just passing a bill out of the House, but getting a bill the president can sign.”

He said Mr. Trump’s four benchmarks for an immigration deal had to be part of the debate: legalization of Dreamers, funding for a border wall, limits to the chain of family migration and eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Mr. McConnell said the immigration debate would commence with a neutral bill and an open amendment process that allows every side of the debate to help craft the legislation.

The process thrilled the bipartisan group of 25 senators led by Susan M. Collins who helped broker the end of the shutdown.

“The outcome is not preordained,” said Ms. Collins, Maine Republican.

Mrs. Pelosi told her fellow Democrats they are still in a strong bargaining position.

“While today’s vote ends the Trump shutdown, it does not diminish our leverage,” she said.

This weekend’s shutdown was the first since 2013, when Republicans forced one over Obamacare.

That shutdown lasted 16 days, and the Obama administration made it particularly painful in closure decisions. The Trump administration vowed to do the shutdown better, keeping open-air parts of national parks and monuments open and allowing agencies to tap unused money to keep operating.

The fact that most of the shutdown came over a weekend also minimized the impact.

Still, Republicans said they hoped Democrats had been schooled.

“If we learned anything during this process is that a strategy to shut down the federal government over the issue of illegal immigration is something the American people did not understand,” Mr. McConnell said.

Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, was more blunt on Democrats’ strategy: “I think people realize this is really a dumb move.”

“They’ve got no exit strategy. They have no plan. You really need to ask yourself how does this end, and they really can’t answer that question. They can’t get what they want. They’ve taken a hostage they can’t shoot,” he said just before the vote.

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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