Editor’s Note: Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator and former communications director for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign. The views expressed in this commentary are hers.
When is a spending deal not a spending deal? When it’s a DACA deal.
It’s pretty simple: funding bills should be about appropriations, not immigration. Unfortunately, Democrats let politics take priority over policy, thus paralyzing any compromise, ultimately shutting down the government.
It’s irrelevant whether you call it a #SchumerShutdown, #ShitholeShowdown, or #SwampShutown. Washington will point fingers and look to place blame, while the American people will suffer.
Democrats were so hell-bent on settling the fate of unlawful immigrants that they were willing to punish lawful residents who serve in our military, rely on children’s health insurance and rely on valuable government services.
President Trump blames Democrats, tweeting that they “are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “this is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
Chuck Schumer blames the GOP generally and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell specifically, saying the Democrats are happy to compromise, but “we will not be bullied.”
The reality is that Democrats chose protections for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients over funding the government. They will have to explain that to the American people.
The fact is that, while there is tremendous support for protecting Dreamers, 56% of Americans, according to a recent CNN poll, said approving a budget to avoid a shutdown was more important than continuing DACA. Thirty-four percent thought renewing DACA was more important than preventing a shutdown.
President Trump has been clear on his goal for dealing with immigration. Along with a DACA fix, he wants increased security at the border, an end to chain migration, and an end to the visa lottery program.
With that in mind, Congress should have addressed first things first: fund the government now and address DACA by its March deadline. It’s shameful that our military and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will suffer due to the reality show known as Congress.
CHIP serves about nine million children whose parents have incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford other insurance. The program receives about 90% of its funding from the federal government.
People across the heartland tell me they feel Democrats regard illegal immigrants more highly than farmers, the military and teachers. They also see the disconnect with both sides of the aisle in Washington widening.
The Continuing Resolution would have reauthorized the CHIP program for six more years.
At an event I attended this week at the White House, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson emphasized the need for protecting military funding. Secretary Wilson stressed that low levels of military readiness “don’t impact how many members of our military will go, but how many will come back.”
That’s a chilling fact to consider amid the political brinkmanship in Washington.
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As far as the political fallout, a handful of Democratic Senators who serve in red states seemingly realized the impact of this vote on their own midterm election prospects. Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri voted with Republicans in favor of the continuing resolution.
They understand that Independents – voters whom they will need in November – agree with Republicans on the issues facing Congress in the shutdown debate.
Senator John McCain tweeted it best, saying this “is a direct result of the breakdown of cooperation in Congress.”
The technical term for the shutdown is “lapse in funding,” when in reality it’s a “lapse in judgment” in Congress. No matter who gets the blame, the American people deserve better than this.