In its debates on the issues it considers writing about, the Star Tribune Editorial Board often reaches consensus about a desired result and a path forward, but sometimes it doesn’t. With respect to the partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, editorial writers D.J. Tice, John Rash, Patricia Lopez and David Banks all want it to end but have differing opinions on how to get there. Amid reports that the U.S. Senate will vote Thursday on dueling bills with dim prospects, the writers’ individual viewpoints on the shutdown follow:
America needs a resolution to the shutdown. That means it needs a compromise on the border-wall funding dispute. That means it needs some real negotiations.
President Donald Trump made an offer over the weekend that, while not a deal any reasonable person would expect congressional Democrats to accept outright, should and would inspire them to respond with a counteroffer — if they were interested in real negotiations and willing to reopen the government on any terms other than Trump’s unconditional surrender on the wall issue.
The Democrats’ demand that Trump must agree to fund the government on their terms before they will negotiate amounts to saying he must unilaterally discard the only bargaining leverage an executive ever has — the veto power — a power Democrats including Mark Dayton and Barack Obama have likewise used or brandished in shutdown confrontations in the not-so-distant past.
Democrats say they favor “border security” but complain that a wall would be ineffective and costly. But surely a dispute over cost-effectiveness wouldn’t be impossible to settle through compromise if both parties wanted an end to the shutdown as much as they want a victory. Trump, by making a small move, has demonstrated grudging good faith. The next step is up to the Democrats.
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In exchange for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding, President Trump offered three years of deportation relief for some immigrants living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA, or the so-called “Dreamers”).
This wouldn’t end the nightmare of uncertainty for the Dreamers, brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children, and the TPS cohort, who fled natural and man-made disasters. In fact, Vice President Mike Pence emphatically reassured Republican supporters that “there is no pathway to citizenship in this proposal.”
What Pence and the president should recognize is that there are Democrats and Republicans alike who recognize that these are people whose lives are in the balance. They’re not a burden but a blessing to our country, and their futures should be secured through comprehensive, humane immigration reform — not used as a negotiating ploy in the cynicism playing out in Washington.
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In the endless war for political dominance, federal government shutdowns have regrettably become an increasingly common weapon, and it’s time Americans called a halt to this destructive tool. The tactic started small — a few “shutdowns” during the late 1970s that involved no employee furloughs. It grew more serious in the 1980s, when clashes between President Ronald Reagan and a Democratic Congress resulted in several shutdowns that included furloughs of a few days or less. Each shutdown seemed to whet the appetite to take demands a little further, to hold out a little longer.
During the infamous showdown between President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich, the nation experienced a weeklong shutdown in 1995, followed quickly by one that lasted a full 21 days, stretching into 1996. There was the 16-day shutdown while President Barack Obama and a Republican Congress fought over the Affordable Care Act.
Now, with President Trump, the country is experiencing its second shutdown in two years, this latest the nation’s longest. Using an entire government, the vital services it provides and the countless workers was, for most of this country’s history, an unthinkable option. Parties accepted the idea of wins and losses within the framework of the normal democratic process. And now we see why. What started as norm-breaking has become the norm, with increasingly harmful consequences.
Shutdowns are a failure to govern and should not be rewarded. The only way to put the genie back in the bottle is to stop rewarding the tactic: no compromises during a shutdown. Otherwise, as the March 1 deadline for extending the federal debt ceiling draws near, this madness will continue and Americans will have to brace for yet another loss of services and pay, further instability in their government, and even greater losses of credibility as the rest of the world looks on with disgust.
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People are properly upset when unrelated matters are bundled into must-pass legislation. The grouping of immigration status, border security and a continuing budget resolution is an example. Immigration is a stew of issues that should be dealt with broadly, separately and not under duress. There is no demonstrable crisis in migrant flows, public safety or economic well-being that suggests otherwise.
The trouble with standing on this principle is that Trump seems willing, with the Senate’s help, to extend the shutdown indefinitely in order to claim victory on a border wall. That may seem improbable, but it was likewise improbable for a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy to be held open for more than a year.
One way to shake things loose might be for Democrats to pitch some off-the-wall bundling of their own. Since the administration’s emphasis seems to be on Americans’ security, incremental gun-control measures come to mind. Perhaps this would just be more politics. But perhaps Trump would be receptive, his administration recently having issued a rule limiting modifications to semi-automatic rifles.
If Senate Republicans saw the president entertaining ideas they dislike in exchange for one about which they are ambivalent, they might get serious about reopening the government and dealing with immigration and its attendant issues appropriately.