Time for Democrats to play hardball

At this point Democrats would be suckers to bail Republicans out of the pending government shutdown if there is no legislation passed before the money runs out. Democrats should let them roast on the spit for a while. They’ll get a better deal and one more embarrassing failure of this Republican-led government to point at in the 2018 election.

Republicans should not need Democrats to keep government operating, a rather low bar for a party that controls the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

But Republicans do need Democratic votes, most particularly in the House. That’s because a group of “Freedom Caucus” Republicans won’t ever vote to spend money. They will vote for a tax-cutting plan forecast to add $1 trillion to the national debt, but they won’t vote to fund government because, you know, they’re fiscally responsible.

How can voters in those Freedom-Caucus loving Red State districts not to see through such hypocrisy?

If no spending plan is in place, government funding runs out Dec. 8. Non-essential services will shut down, parks will close, and news reports will be filled with stories of services interrupted just before the holiday.

President Trump somehow thinks he can “absolutely blame the Democrats.”

The Democratic reply should be, “Make our day.”

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were supposed to meet with Trump and the Republican congressional leaders Tuesday to talk about the issue. As he waited, Trump sent out a tweet.

“Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!” tweeted our president.

Chuck and Nancy didn’t show up. Would you?

To try to further embarrass the Democrats, Trump posed with two empty chairs and Schumer and Pelosi nameplates. Calling that stunt sophomoric would be an insult to sophomores.

There are things Democrats want to get out of supplying the votes necessary to keep the government operating. They want to pass legislation to make permanent the Dreamer’s program. Started during the Obama presidency, it provides protection and legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Trump discontinued the popular program for no good reason. Appeasing his anti-immigrant base does not qualify as a good reason. The program can only be saved through legislative action.

Democrats also want some protections for the Affordable Care Act, since it is the law of the land and half the public has a favorable view of it. And they want to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides insurance for kids in low-income families. Republicans — they’re the majority, you recall — let funding for the program expire in September. “Happy Christmas, kids!”

These are worthy goals, but they will still be on the table when Republican leadership comes begging for some help in January as the embarrassment over a government shutdown grows.

Imagine the gall of Republicans to say the country can afford a massive tax cut aimed primarily at the rich, but they can’t find the votes to keep government functioning.

So Connecticut Congressmen Joe Courtney, Jim Himes, John B. Larson, Rosa DeLauro and Elizabeth Esty, and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Democrats all, don’t toss the Republicans a lifeline. Let them figure it out.

They won’t. It’s has been a year and they haven’t figured out anything else.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.



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