So What Was the Point of the Government Shutdown?

So What Was the Point of the Government Shutdown?

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

After a three-day standoff, Senate Democrats relented Monday in their shutdown fight with Republicans and agreed to reopen the government in exchange for … well, something … maybe. Democrats agreed to support a short-term spending bill that funds the government through February 8 and reauthorizes the Children’s Health Care Program for six years in exchange for continued negotiations on immigration and budget issues.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also agreed more explicitly to allow open debate and a floor vote on an immigration bill if no broader deal is reached in three weeks. “What we started with was basically what we ended with, just a firmer commitment,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told MSNBC.

Senate Democrats want to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But the deal reached Monday provides no guarantees that those protections will be codified. Democrats essentially won a vote in the Senate. “Now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader from New York, said Monday.

Where that pathway leads will depend on President Trump, who has sown confusion over his position on immigration, and on House Republicans who aren’t likely to back an immigration deal, if history is any guide, unless the White House provides them with political cover. It will also depend on McConnell following through on his commitment, and some Democratic senators cautioned it was foolhardy to put their trust in the Senate majority leader. Liberal advocacy groups, meanwhile, were “livid” about the deal.

A number of senators also voiced optimism that the talks among more than 20 lawmakers from both parties that led to Monday’s vote would usher in further bipartisanship. “I am so encouraged that a large bipartisan group of Senators worked TOGETHER to help make it happen. Proud to be a part of that,” Sen. Claire McKaskill, a Democrat up for re-election in a red state, tweeted.

But if the shutdown was, as Brian Beutler suggests, about “narrative control over who’s to blame for political dysfunction,” Democrats likely didn’t do themselves any favors in this standoff. Unless the brinksmanship of the shutdown fight translates into legislative action in the coming weeks, the status quo in D.C. will still be dysfunctional. The government may be reopening, but the Dreamers don’t yet have any protection from being deported starting in March and the budget process is as broken as before. We’ll find out by February 8 whether there was any point at all to the battle of the last few days.