Playing Poker In The Senate

Last week Chuck Schumer, the Democrat leader in the U.S. Senate, decided to flex his muscle and block the Continuing Resolution (CR) that the House had just passed to keep the government funded.  This was not a full year CR but yet another short-term fix to a problem that continues to fester in the Congress.  More about that later.

The issue that Schumer pegged his stand on was the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  These are the children that were brought to this country illegally by their parents.  They have been here many years, grown up here, went to school here and for many, it is the only country they have ever known.  Politically it has become a charged issue but in the past year, both sides of the political aisle have agreed that there needs to be a solution to resolve their status.  The problem was brought to a head when former President Obama granted permission for this group to remain in the country through an Executive Order.  This was immediately challenged by groups and was working its way through the courts.  He has previously issued a similar order on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) that was enjoined by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Most legal experts felt that the suit challenging DACA would end up with the same result.

President Trump was confronted with this problem and temporarily allowed the Obama Executive Order to remain in place giving Congress a deadline to fix the law.  This is the procedure that should have been followed from the beginning but with Congress unable to act Obama did what he had been doing on so many other issues and issues yet another Executive Order. President Trump actually did what Obama should have done and confronted Congress on this issue and give them a deadline to pass a bill that would protect those covered by DACA and give them the status they seek.  This is lost on the DACA activists who don’t realize that what Trump has done is actually allow them to achieve the goal they seek without having the Court rule against them.

But last week, as I said, Schumer decided to play poker and convinced his caucus in the Senate to shut down the government over this issue.  His problem was he was holding a weak hand and in Las Vegas, any poker player would have folded those cards immediately.  It was a bad decision then and remains a bad decision today.  He based his decision on the strong support in the country for a resolution that would allow the Dreamers to stay in the United States.   But the polling data started to roll in and Democrats in the Senate got nervous.  Already five of them up for reelection this year had bolted and crossed over to vote to keep the government open.  Only John Tester (D-MT) stayed with Schumer as Democrat from what is considered a Red State.  According to a CNN poll, almost 60% of voters felt it was more important to keep the government open than to shut it down over DACA.

Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in the Senate, knew all along that he was holding better cards than Schumer and that time was on his side.  Over and over he offered a deal to Schumer that they would address the DACA issue in February and each time Schumer refused and hoped that his bluff would force McConnell to cave.  But politics being what they are Schumer was forced to give in and allow the bill to pass.

Now he is hit with the double whammy.  He went toe-to-toe with McConnell and lost.  The moderates in his party were getting ready to cross over and deliver the 60 votes needed and the liberals in the party are now irate that he did not stick to his guns.  His status as the master dealmaker and leader took a major hit on this issue.  He can go on new shows and point the finger at Trump but everyone knows who botched this thing from the beginning.  What the polls showed was Schumer’s stand was popular with the hard left and the voters they already had but very unpopular in middle America and the voters they need to recapture political power in this country.

I don’t want anyone to think that this win by Republicans is a long-term victory.  The CR that was just passed keeps the government running until February 8.  That means they have to come up with some form of an immigration bill that addresses DACA or they may find themselves back in the same mess.  Then Schumer and his fellow liberals we claim they were defrauded in the first vote.  They were promised a solution and there is none.  So the pressure is now back on the Republicans and I am not sure they can deliver on time.

Getting any immigration bill to move forward is difficult.  Something the group in the Senate might find appealing could be rejected in the House where the Freedom Caucus has enough votes to torpedo any bill.  I suspect some of the Democrats are licking their chops on the next fight where it may pit Republicans against Republicans.

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