Congress’s inaction is also at odds with promises made not so long ago by President Trump himself. It’s true that last week he beat up on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House, tweeting “they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”
Yet in September, knowing he needed Democratic votes, he agreed to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded into December. And just a day after ordering an end to DACA, he promised to work with Democrats on a replacement for it, saying, “Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I.”
The president’s made-for-TV snit with Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi comes at a bad time. Before any long-term deal can be reached on the spending bills, Congress must agree to lift caps on government spending imposed under a bipartisan budget deal reached in 2011. Current law limits military spending to $549 billion and nonmilitary spending to $516 billion, a cut from current levels.
Democrats want any increase in military spending to be matched by nonmilitary spending, including money to fight the opioid epidemic, shore up 200 depleted worker pension plans, assist students with loan repayments and extend CHIP, along with funding for Community Health Centers. They also want permanent legal protection for young immigrants, which Mr. Trump supported back in September.
They have a pretty fair chance of success on a number of these issues because the Republicans are not solidly arrayed against them. Indeed, many Republicans worry that a government shutdown could cancel out whatever good will they can salvage from the unpopular tax bill and damage their chances for re-election next year. Late last week, they were working on a proposal to keep the government funded through Dec. 22, two weeks longer than the current Dec. 8 deadline. Some Republicans are already working with Democrats to replace DACA, secure more money for addiction treatment and combine an extension of children’s health insurance with money for community health centers.
Mr. Trump, though, doesn’t seem to get it. He’s been posing with two empty chairs in the White House after Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi protested his caustic tweets by not showing up, and he’s said that if the government shuts down, “I would absolutely blame the Democrats.” It is not at all clear that the public would agree. Nor would those Republicans who seem willing to work around their unreliable president and, at least on some issues, deliver the solutions Americans are waiting for.