On Friday evening, January 21st, the nation watched as the members of the United States Senate milled around chattering in small groups in an effort to come up with something, anything, that President Trump might sign to avoid a shutdown of the people’s government. At the stroke of midnight, all of the efforts of the people’s representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives were in vain and the shutdown became a reality on exactly 365 days after Trump was inaugurated and became the 45th president of the nation. The blame game began in earnest. The Republicans accused the Democrats of failing to provide healthcare for 9 million children (CHIP) and championing illegal immigration (DACA). Democrats charged the Republicans with attempting to legislate alone, leaving the Democrats out of any budget negotiations. The litany of complaints and finger pointing has go on and on ad nauseum.
The Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, whined in the days leading up to the final vote, that he needed to know what the president was for and what the president wanted in the final budget bill. He was not willing to bring the bill to vote unless he was certain the president would sign it. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) made a bipartisan proposal on the budget bill that appeared to be acceptable to the president only to have the president renege on that proposal two hours later. Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) the Minority Leader in the Senate has a one-on-one meeting with the president on day of the vote to try and determine what the president would accept. All of this and the speeches and pontifications on the Senate floor resulted in the inevitable shutdown of the government. In the end, this is a failure of leadership. The blame game is of no value. It won’t solve any problems, pass a budget, or score political points with the Republican and Democratic bases. It is a failure of the members of Congress to do what the people of the nation want and the Constitution mandates. Quite simply do your job! Legislate!
The government remained shutdown until Monday evening. A majority of Democrats called off their resistance to the Continuing Resolution with the promise of Republican Leader McConnell’s intention to bring up Senate debate on “illegal immigration” (re: the DACA kids) “so long as there is no further shutdown.” The Senate then passed the C.R. 81-18, followed a majority vote in the House of Representatives to pass the C.R., and send it over for the president’s signature. The government will remain open until February 8th when once again Congress will have to decide whether or not to shut down the government again. Is there any wonder the American people give Congress such poor marks and poll numbers?
Fortunately, what started as a small bipartisan group meeting in Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) office began to craft a compromise piece of legislation that they thought would pass the Senate and had a probable chance of passing in the House. There were some obvious hurdles that needed to be cleared, not the least of whether the president (who had remained missing in action through the whole debate) would sign whatever was agreed upon. The original small group of Senators grew to 20-25 Senators on both sides of the aisle. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out given the deadline of February 8th in order to avoid another shutdown.
At the heart of this particular part of the immigration debate is whether to allow D.A.C.A. or “Dreamer” kids to stay in the country and have a path to citizenship. According to polls, this is favored by 75-80% or the American people. In exchange for allowing the kids to stay, the president has said he wants $25 billion for his border wall, increased border security, ending “chain” or family immigration, and doing away with the immigration lottery system. In essence, this would cut immigration in half on an annual basis. Of course, that is exactly what the hard-right wing of the Republican party wants. You may wish to read my blog post of September 1, 2017 The Latest Republican Effort to Restrict Immigration. Proposals such as the R.I.S.E. Act which was brought to Congress by those two stalwarts of white supremacy, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA). These two Senators and those in Congress who agree with them are a disgrace and are delusional.
It is time to put all this immigration hysteria to rest and call it what it is-racism pure and simple. Regardless of what President Trump says (which is hardly ever true anyway) he is a racist. Despite all his bombast and bullying, he nor anyone else is going to Make America White Again! We are a nation of immigrants and always will be so long as the grand lady in New York stands torch held high proclaiming “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
America is not perfect. It never has been. But it is still the best hope for those who wish to leave their ancestral homes and seek a new life in an unknown land. And those who breed fear and bigotry have no sense of what this country has been all about since its beginning two and a half centuries ago. The question at this time in our history is whether or not we will call on our “better angels” to turn back those intent on dividing us on basis of the color one’s skin rather than the character of one’s soul.