About 800,000 federal workers are currently going without pay as an agreement between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats remains elusive, but Vice’s Harry Cheadle argued on Monday that it is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is responsible for the shutdown’s continuation.
Why? Because McConnell refuses to bring a shutdown-ending bill to the floor for a vote.
The US has weathered government shutdowns before, but the circumstances of this one are particularly embarrassing. In December it seemed likely that Congress would do what it had done before to avert a shutdown and pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government open; the Senate easily passed such a bill without including money for the wall. But the House didn't take up that bill and instead moved on a bill that purported to fund a wall.
The embarrassing part is the new Democratic House passed a non-wall spending bill last week, but McConnell has refused to do what he did last month and introduce a shutdown-ending bill. He called the Democrats' bill "political theater" and said just before its passage, “The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature. Let’s not waste the time.”
But McConnell is being dishonest, Cheadle wrote, because although Trump could veto any bill he chooses, a two-thirds majority in Congress could override it and end the shutdown.
This would take Republican courage, however, and that seems to be in short order among current GOP lawmakers.
For such a veto override to take place, 55 Republicans in the House and 20 in the Senate would have to join with the Democrats and defy Trump. That kind of reaching across the aisle is rare these days, but many Republicans are openly frustrated with how Trump is handling this situation and some have called for reopening the government or at least funding the Department of Homeland Security. (Other portions of the government have been funded by previous piecemeal spending bills.) Republicans are fed up with Trump on other issues, with some criticizing him for his announced withdrawal from Syria and new Senator Mitt Romney blasting his low morals in a Washington Post op-ed.
The public isn't happy either. Initial polls found the public blamed Trump for the shutdown, but subsequent polls contained evidence that people also blamed Congress—in one recent survey, 58 percent of respondents disapproved of Republicans' handling of the affair, compared to 51 percent disapproval for Democrats. Trump may not care if large swathes of the country hate him—so what else is new?—but Republicans who aren't attached to his wall in the first place likely don't love seeing their own numbers tanking because of the impasse.
Still, McConnell does not budge and continues “stalling a vote to demonstrate total fealty to the president and his wall, damaging the lives of real people in the service of political posturing.”