Congress faces big problems right now.
But it’s unclear if lawmakers can solve any of them.
A DACA fix to help hundreds of thousands of people brought here by their parents when they were children? Democrats went to the mat over DACA in January. Democrats thought Republicans would cave. GOPers held their ground. The Democratic maneuver triggered a government shutdown.
So no resolution on DACA.
A massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida?
Any action guns? Background checks?
Lots of talk. No action.
Congress agreed to fund federal operations through March 23 after a brief, overnight government shutdown in February. Congressional leaders are scrambling to cobble together an enormous, catch-all spending package to operate government programs through September 30 and avoid another shutdown.
This requires compromise from both sides.
“The speaker will not have the votes on his side of the aisle to pass the bill,” predicted House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “He’ll have to expect and count on Democratic votes to add to his votes.”
The Democrats’ DACA strategy backfired in January. Democrats withheld their votes to fund the government unless Republicans addressed DACA. And then the government shuttered.
It was long thought that Congress would have until March 5 to advance a DACA patch. But various court rulings punted the need for Congress to act immediately. Congress rarely acts unless it’s obligated. The upcoming spending bill may be the last “must-pass” piece of legislation on Capitol Hill until fall. So wouldn’t Democrats attempt to shoehorn a DACA provision into the omnibus plan to fund the government?
Democrats are still smarting from their January beat-down. Democrats certainly want something on DACA. But they aren’t clamoring to repeat the earlier botched gambit. Democratic leaders are lowering the temperature on the upcoming omnibus package. Hoyer’s trying to steer DACA away from the March 23 government funding equation.
“I’ve always demurred on that question being a contingency,” Hoyer said of linking DACA and government funding. “I think the omnibus needs to be considered on its own merits and that we ought to move ahead on DACA.”
Hoyer noted that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told him for months the House would address DACA.
“When he became Speaker [Ryan said] that they were going to take the tough issues head on,” Hoyer said. “What is he afraid of?”
The answer is simple when it comes to Republicans voting on DACA.
Would you rather screw up in spring training or in game seven of the World Series?
Democrats got burned on DACA in January. Republicans believe they could be burned in November.
That said, House Republican leaders continue to gauge support for a “conservative” immigration/DACA/border security plan authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Fox News is told the bill doesn’t have the votes to pass yet. But Republican leaders intend to massage the vote count over the next two weeks. House Republicans would like to have their own solution – and not something which came from the Senate.
Not that the Senate accomplished anything on DACA when a cascade of four immigration/DACA plans imploded on the Senate floor a few weeks ago.
And then there Democrats who are compelled to push for DACA.
“Starting tomorrow, I’m going to Ryan’s office every day,” said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a candidate for governor.
She promised to court Ryan in any way she could to convince him to hold a DACA vote.
“Maybe he likes peanuts. Maybe he likes popcorn,” Lujan Grisham said. “Maybe he likes Redbox movies.”
The speaker hails from Wisconsin. Perhaps Lujan Grisham could ply Ryan with cheese curds and Green Bay Packers gear.
Firearms were not a consideration in the previous government funding imbroglios. There’s no hint of a Congressional response nearly a month after the Parkland, Florida shooting. Why wouldn’t school safety and gun control activists try to hitch gun provisions to the must-pass spending package if the issue is so important?
“I can’t predict for you what extraneous items may be included (on the omnibus) but there are almost always some,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“Leader McConnell seems to be afraid of this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “We’re going to keep talking about guns and we will take action. There’s going to be huge public rallies and demonstrations on the 24th.”
The 24th? March 24? As in one day after the House and Senate have a deadline to fund the government, presumably without addressing firearms? In fact, Fox News is told there is an effort on the Republican side of the aisle to accelerate the pace of the spending package, advance it well before the 23rd and get lawmakers out of Washington early for a pre-scheduled, two-week recess for Easter and Passover. That way Republican lawmakers don’t have to be anywhere near Capitol Hill when activists and high school students start roaming the halls of Congress days before the demonstrations.
Truth be told, adding gun language to the bill could tank the measure. So lawmakers are trying to maintain “purity” when it comes to the omnibus.
Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill Wednesday to allow family members to go to court to keep someone from acquiring a weapon if they show signs of violence.
“It’s a first step,” Nelson said.
“I personally have been searching for things that we can do quickly,” Rubio said. “If you begin to do the things you agree on, it creates a level of momentum.”
Congressional Democrats are the loudest voices when it comes to curbing firearm violence. Many members from both sides appear to agree on bolstering background checks. But ironically, a push from Democrats for action on a host of other gun-related subjects may be what’s hindering any firearm-related action now.
David Hogg is the 17-year-old student who became a national figure after the Parkland melee. Hogg addressed Democrats via Skype during a forum on guns at the Capitol Wednesday.
“How many more children need to be slaughtered?” asked Hogg.
Rubio echoed Hogg when he spoke at a press conference rolling out the restraining order legislation.
“The next killer may be plotting to kill. We don’t have time,” implored Rubio.
But at this stage, there’s no path for Congress to consider anything on firearms. DACA isn’t faring much better. These issues are radioactive. Any push to link provisions on either subject to the spending bill fizzled long ago.
So what is Congress doing?
The House voted to name seven post offices on Monday. The Senate voted in the late morning Tuesday to break a filibuster to launch debate on a banking deregulation bill. Then the Senate didn’t formally start the debate until Wednesday night. The reason? Senators were trying to retool the bill behind the scenes and craft an agreement to consider other amendments.
There was still no deal on anything when the Senate quit Wednesday night.
As Rubio said, “do the things you agree on.”
Which is why the House named seven post offices.