As I write this, it still remains unclear when, and if, the House of Representatives will vote on the short-term funding bill known as a continuing resolution that would avoid government shutdown.
The idea of a continuing resolution itself is commonplace and remarkably unsexy — so why all the noise? The caveat drumming up this week’s political theatre was the GOP’s decision to reduce the lives of millions of naturalized children to a political bargaining chip. As it stands, the C.R. wouldn’t provide for any sort of much-needed DACA substitute or immigration policy in its plans — another one of President Donald Trump’s forgotten promises — nor any word on the disaster relief that continues to remain immediately necessary for the many Americans rebuilding in Puerto Rico. Bigger fish to fry? The dire necessity of avoiding a government shutdown? (If we’ve learned anything from President Barack Obama’s second term, Republicans hate those.) Please.
Don’t be fooled. The funding package purposefully doesn’t include these things, and it never would have. I hope no one really ever thought the president who casually characterized Mexicans as “rapists” and described developing nations as “sh-tholes” would actually be keen on considering any sort of responsible, comprehensive immigration plan. Even Rep. Paul Ryan’s widely despised C.R. “alternative” ignored DACA like it didn’t exist — all so that the Trump administration and congressional Republicans could continue to kick the can down the road until it’s too late to do anything about it. They’re stonewalling and stalling in hopes that their recent failures to put forward any sort of comprehensive health care reform, immigration reform or disaster relief will be ignored in the upcoming midterms. And they want to use the threat of a potential shutdown as a red herring to stave off the Democratic lead in the polls, which reached double-digits this week. Nonpartisan institutions have time and time again demonstrated that most Americans want a DACA renewal or updated alternative or comprehensive replacement — in other words, something. A decision. The Republican message is clear: As long as inaction remains advantageous for the 300 or so individuals in the Congressional GOP, millions of other Americans will never have an answer.
Shutdowns are never ideal; they’re unpopular and useless to the goals of either party. But if the GOP is going to force Democrats and reasonable members of their own party to choose between shutdown and chicanery, the result seems already clear: Shutdown it is. If Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell really want to avoid the shutdown that will, as they have so persuaded, crumble our military and make our children cry, they should put forward a passable bill. Otherwise, it’s on them.
The most important thing to remember as we watch this play out in D.C. is the necessity of involvement and attention. If anything, do not let this become another episode of the dramatic post-2016 politics to which we have become so desensitized; DREAMers walk among us every day — at this University, in our clubs and classes, our workplaces, our lives. Put pressure on your representatives. Don’t allow human lives to be trivialized by a president and an administration so clearly unmoved by the will of the people, and undeterred by the lack of a public mandate.
Centrist Republicans and Democrats have continued to put forward bipartisan alternatives. These include Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin’s immigration reform proposal from the Gang of Six (a bipartisan group attempting to offer alternatives, and comprised of three Republican members) which McConnell has refused to even glance at. To add fuel to the fire, Trump recently tweeted that the Children’s Health Insurance Program provision included in the measure — a six-year reauthorization of the CHIP — should be removed. Endangering and compromising the lives of 6 million American kids? All in a day’s tweets. Meanwhile, Ryan has attempted to urge Congress members away from shutdown by pivoting to the military, and how shutdown would utterly destroy it (were the usual suspects, Ronald Reagan and Our Christian Values, unavailable?) One GOP House member, Rep. Mark Walker, recently called the C.R. a “crap sandwich.” How remarkably reassuring.
The nature of our democracy, in each small part, is defined by our response to situations like these. How do we act in the face of an administration more concerned with the assent of its supporters rather than the consent of the governed? One that responds with avoidance and evasion instead of plans and legislation? Fittingly, a symbolic vote on Friday will be followed by a Women’s March on Saturday. If we want to demand reform and demand progress, we have to, well, actually demand it. With calls. With outcry.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.