How will the Democrats reopen the government?

Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

Judging by his tweets over the past 24 hours, Donald Trump is starting to panic. In that period, he has tweeted 16 times — in his entire presidency, he has only tweeted more than that 26 times. Well, OK. This is Donald Trump. But consider when some of those days with more tweets happened. In comparison, the day after the midterm election when he lost the House, he also tweeted 16 times. Many of the times he tweeted more than that were in the fall of 2018 in the days leading up to the election. You can only imagine his panic then as he imagined the Democrats controlling a Chamber, able to launch investigations into his business dealings. And yet, yesterday equaled that.

Some of his tweets from this 24-hour period doth protest too much. “How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?” Try to control your snark.

Some of them were pleading. “I don’t care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats, I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?”

But he admits he is in trouble. “V.P. Mike Pence and team just left the White House. Briefed me on their meeting with the Schumer/Pelosi representatives. Not much headway made today.”

Pelosi, for her part, isn’t moving. “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall.” Obviously, she thinks she has a winning hand.

She is probably right. Yesterday, reports emerged of TSA screeners, working for two weeks without pay now, have been calling in sick. This is something that will get the attention of lawmakers, they who have to travel between Washington and their districts. Back in 2013, flight delays resulting from automatic budget cuts due to the sequester resulted in an all-hands-on-deck bipartisan effort, including President Obama, to add back in the cut funds. No such effort was made for the many other government programs, many benefiting regular people or scientific research, that also faced cuts. But if you make the commute harder for members of Congress? Watch out!

Two Republican Senators have already announced that they would support legislation to reopen the government without the wall: Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Remember that Democrats only need four Senators to vote with them to get to that magic 51 votes.

Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to stand firm. “I’ve made it clear on several occasions, and let me say it again: The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature.” However, with 51 votes, Democrats can file a discharge petition which will force the Senate to vote on the issue whether the majority leader wants to or not.

There are at least three other vulnerable Republicans who are up for re-election in 2020: Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Joni Ernst (R-IA). Undoubtedly, they are all feeling the pressure supporting an unpopular President on an unpopular shutdown. They would certainly all vote to get out of this situation if they could. And the pressure only increases by the day.

You even have Republican Senators from once-safe seats who are showing signs of cracking. Senator Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, for example, said “a shutdown, in my view, is a no-win proposition.” She is already looking for a way to resolve the problems at the airports.

In Kansas, Senator Pat Roberts has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2020. In the past, one might have shrugged when talking about Democratic prospects in Kansas. But remember that in the last election, a Democrat was elected governor there, and Republicans have been battered with a slew of legislators defecting to the other party. Roberts joins Lamar Alexander of Tennessee in announcing his retirement. Remember that Tennessee was the site of one of the more hotly contested Senate seats in 2018. As a result, both Senators will face pressure to reopen the government, and neither has anything more to fear from a MAGA primary.

The point is that in the Senate, the Democrats are getting dangerously close to having the votes to pass a package to reopen the government without a wall. If they do so, Trump will be forced to sign the bill or veto it, again taking full responsibility upon himself and his party for the shutdown. Then, Republicans must ask themselves if they wish to stick with this sinking ship through a veto override vote. Any Republican can be certain that this vote will come back to haunt them in their re-election campaign.

So does Pelosi have a winning hand? Probably. With each day, the pressure increases upon Republicans, and defections become more likely. With each defection, the Democrats get closer to having the votes to reopen the government. If I were Trump, I’d be panicking too.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

Mike is an Assistant Professor of Management for Legal and Ethical Studies at Oakland U. Mike combines his scholarship with practical experience in politics.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store