Third Way Think Tank / Flickr chuck schumer...
Third Way Think Tank / Flickr

Pop Quiz!

Q: What’s the difference between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump?

A: Chuck Schumer learns from his mistakes

Regardless of how history judges the ultimate resolution of the DACA shutdown, for now the Democrats are on defense. The Trump administration is crowing about the speed with which Schumer and the Democrats “caved” on the shutdown, and progressive and activist groups are hammering them for ending the shutdown with noting tangible to show for it. But here I must give Schumer credit, he at least is thinking strategically, and he’s laying a nice little trap for Trump. 

Actually, Chuck Schumer did get something from the shutdown. As Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out last night, he got cover for three of his vulnerable Senators. On Friday night, after the cloture vote failed, he sent three of his at risk Senators in 2018, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, and Ben Nelson of Florida to the podium to speak. All three shocked and surprised McConnell by calling for “unanimous consent” decrees. McCaskill actually called for a resolution to continue military pay and death benefits during the shutdown. Tester and Nelson offered short 1 and 3 day extensions to continue negotiations. Yertl the Turtle objected to each one of them, killing the bills in the cradle. This was what the Democrats should have spent the weekend trumpeting to the skies, that it was actually McConnell that shut the government down with his petty objections, and threatened the pay for the military, but they chose to pound other, more ineffective points instead. But those Senators will be able to run ads in the campaign showing how they strove to keep the government open, and pay the military, which can only help their campaigns.

But Shumer is already thinking ahead to the February 8th showdown, as well he should, and he’s setting the table. He’s doing it in the true Trump style, by moving the goalposts. One of the things that Schumer stressed during the shutdown was that he dealt in good faith, even putting the offer of $1.6B in funding for the Democrat dreaded wall on the table in return for DACA protection, only to have Trump shoot the offer down and hold the DACA recipients hostage for more than $20B in funding. But now that the shutdown is over, and the GOP no longer has CHIP recipients available to threaten anymore, Schumer isn’t feeling quite so charitable anymore. According to reporting in The Hill;

Schumer told the White House through an aide that he was withdrawing the offer to give more than $1.6 billion in funding for Trump’s proposed border wall, Politico reported.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on the reported offer said Schumer “took it off.”

“He called the White House yesterday and said it’s over,” Durbin said, according to Politico.

This is a very politically astute move on Schumer’s part. Trump and McConnell no longer have the CHIP recipients available as a negotiating tool, threatening to pull that coverage from a future deal. McConnell is going to have pressure from moderate GOP Senators who put their names and reputations on the line in crafting the deal to reopen the governement by promising to bring a DACA fix up for a vote. Trump has steadfastly vowed that wall funding must be a part of any DACA fix. He had it, and now he doesn’t. Schumer can play the wall funding card one of two ways. He can use it either to separate the “chain migration” issue from DACA, or, and I like this one better, he can use it to extract a concession from Trump that if a bipartisan bill passes the Senate, Trump will give it his blessing upon passage, and pressure Paul Ryan to bring it to the floor of the House for a vote. That was the weak spot in the McConnell pledge, he only promised to bring a vote in the Senate, nothing was said about the House having to do anything with the bill. This tactic, done publicly, would put Trump on the spot, and force Ryan to either bring a bill unpopular with his caucus to the floor for a vote, or defy his President, something Ryan has been loathe to do.

I was extremely critical of Schumer in my little rant yesterday, and I stand by my words, I feel he botched the shutdown. But that’s over and done with, and Schumer is already showing that when it comes to tactical planning, he’s still got a trick or two. I can’t disiss the point that Schumer may have thrown the wall funding in as a loud gimmick, one he knew Trump would refuse in order to force Schumer to turn off the light, but by putting it out there, he now has something Trump wants, he’s already offered it, and Trump can have it. For the right price. Don’t touch that dial.

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