First published on COLORLINES.COM
As you’ve surely heard, Congress ended the three-day shutdown of the federal government yesterday (January 22) with the passage of a stopgap bill that will fund the government for three weeks. The government was shut down because Congress has not produced a federal budget on time. Lawmakers have to keep using these temporary measures, known as continuing resolution (CR) bills, to keep the government running.
This time around, Democrats in the Senate attempted then gave up on inserting a DREAM Act into the bill. That means that recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as well as other undocumented young people who didn’t qualify for the program in the first rounds, have to wait until at least February 8 for any relief.
The situation results from two threads of GOP strategy. The first is the party’s insistence on an unpopular federal budget proposal, even within their own party. The second is President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, which Obama had set up by executive order. Let’s examine each thread now.
The Flawed Budget Process
The federal budget process begins with the president presenting a proposal early in the calendar year that has to pass by October 1, the start of the fiscal year. When Congress doesn’t pass a federal budget on time, they have to use temporary funding bills to keep the government running until it’s finished. The CR bill that passed yesterday is the fifth since last September.
Without the full support of their own party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could not win their proposed budget without Democratic votes.
“This is all about the Republican incompetence to govern combined with a sinister anti-immigrant view of the world and desire to scapegoat immigrants,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told me shortly after the shutdown ended yesterday. “Lets be really clear that Republicans shut the government down because you have to get 60 votes in the Senate and they didn’t have it.”
That budget lacked Republican support because there was no way to pay for a proposed increase in defense funding without either raising spending caps or cutting domestic programs like environmental protection, health, pensions of federal retirees and many more. So, when Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) talk about “parity,” they mean that non-defense spending has to go, dollar-for-dollar, as high as defense spending. Or alternatively, that non-defense spending can’t be gutted to cover the defense funding.