When partisan wailing and snarling bursts out these days in the halls of national power, it may be easy to forget that the elected Republicans hold both houses of Congress and the White House.
You may think functional harmony via the ballot box would have been achieved — if only by the GOP holding most of the cards. But that isn’t the case.
Under the current scenario, Democrats retain a bit of clout. Their votes are expected to be needed to approve a temporary spending bill and thus avert a government shutdown. The price of their agreement has become a deal to help those brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay here.
Friday at midnight comes the next spending deadline. Usually the can is successfully kicked down the road, but there’s so much hue and cry at the moment in the wake of President Donald Trump’s “shithole” comment and bitter denunciations of Democrats that doubts have arisen.
Trump, whose executive order in September rescinded the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, made it clear this week he is ready to blame the less-empowered party if a government shutdown occurs.
In tandem, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) issued warnings against his party adversaries as if he was outside the elected establishment.
As is increasingly the case with top-rung politicians, he relied on Twitter to make news, which allows for no questioning as to fact or requests for elaboration. Cotton tweeted:
“So Democrats are now threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. Let’s see how that works out for them, especially in places like WV, IN, MO, ND, & MT.”
Which brings up other basic facts worth remembering.
In 2013 there was a chaotic 17-day shutdown during which 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, with 1.3 million reporting to work without knowing when they’d be paid.
That interruption occurred during the Democratic presidency of Barack Obama. As is the case now, the Senate was controlled by the party of the incumbent president.
But there was one big difference then. The otherwise out-of-power Republicans (Cotton included) controlled the House and essentially prodded the shutdown as they attempted unsuccessfully to kill Obamacare.
Short-term political damage to the GOP resulted. One estimate put the economic cost of the shutdown at $6 billion.