The federal government is on a glide path to reopening Tuesday after Senate Democrats largely joined their Republican colleagues to vote for a proposal that will fund the government through February 8 in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to turn to the DACA program in very short order.
The big winners are federal employees who can now return to work and the American public who see their elected officials actually working for them. Less fortunate are DACA recipients who remain in limbo as Congress kicked the can down the road until at least February 8. Permits issued for DACA, which gives a protected status to the children who were brought to the US by undocumented immigrants, but lived much or most of their lives in the US, will begin to expire in early March after President Donald Trump canceled the program last fall.
But, as always in this sort of high stakes – and high profile – game of chicken, there are a number of political consequences as well. Below, a look at some of the other less-than-obvious winners – and losers – in all of this.
* Mitch McConnell: The Senate majority leader refused to make a hard and fast promise to Democrats that they would get a vote on DACA. On Sunday night, he said it was his “intention” to bring up DACA. Democrats blanched, saying he hadn’t gone far enough to assure them of a vote. On Monday, hours before the vote to reopen the government, McConnell went to the Senate floor again and repeated his “intention” language. Despite that lack of change in McConnell’s position, Democrats came along – trusting that the majority leader would be good to his word. Which he might be! But, intending to do something isn’t the same thing as doing it. McConnell, ever the savvy negotiator, drew a line and refused to smudge it out even amid the blame game of the shutdown. And he won.
* Lindsey Graham: The South Carolina senator was the leader of the efforts to make a deal. His three-week proposal to reopen the government wound up being the legislation that did the trick. He also emerged as an honest broker – willing to call out Republicans and Democrats – in all of this, someone who can build a bridge between the two sides within the Senate. Plus, Graham got re-elected in 2014, meaning he doesn’t have to worry about the possibility of a serious primary fight for working across the aisle until 2020.
* 2018 Democrats: There are 10 Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won in 2016 – including five where he won by double digits. That group – Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as well as Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and others – led the push to make a deal with McConnell. And they won. Which, theoretically, shields them from possibly being blamed for an extended government shutdown.
* Moderates: In the wake of the CR passing, Manchin and Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, held a jubilant newsconference touting a new era of bipartisan cooperation within the Senate. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, in remarks just before the CR vote, touted how the past few days of deal-making not only was how the Senate should work but presaged a new age of cooperation. Count me very skeptical. But, on this day, moderates got a deal. They won.
* Davos: If the government had stayed shuttered, Trump would have had to cancel his hugely high profile trip to the yearly World Economic Forum in Switzerland later this week. Now, Trump will almost certainly go – and make his speech at Davos a must-watch for people around the world.
* Chuck Schumer: The New York Democrat held a hard line on what his party needed to hear from Republicans in order to sign on to the continuing resolution that would reopen the government for much of the weekend. On Saturday night, Schumer said this to my colleague Manu Raju: “We need a good bipartisan agreement that allows us to get a good defense number, get a good non-defense number, get a vote on the Dreamers bill and get that done and deal with the disasters too. There’s a whole lot to do and our Republican colleagues have sent us just a CR that doesn’t do the job.” Schumer also said he could not support a three-week continuing resolution. And yet, Schumer signed onto a three-week CR deal without anything beyond McConnell’s assurance that DACA would be brought up with a “level playing field.” Huh?
* 2020 Democrats: The likes of Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts got rolled by their party’s leadership and a group of 2018 Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted on Twitter, Harris and Warren were among the first two “no” votes on the continuing resolution. This isn’t the last fight in the battle for control of the direction of the Democratic Party heading into the 2020 election. But, it is a fight. And one that liberals very much lost.
* The House: For roughly the billionth time, the lower chamber was cut entirely out of the deal-making. The Senate cut a CR deal and then just told the House, essentially, “do as you’re told and pass this.” Being the little brother – always – isn’t much fun.