As of this writing, the federal government is still “shut down.” (I use quotations because, while disruptions definitely occur, it’s hard not to notice that much of the federal government is still operating).
The last time this happened, Democrats blamed Republicans in the harshest terms.
In 2013, Nancy Pelosi called Republicans willing to shut down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare “legislative arsonists.” Chuck Schumer called the GOP “fanatics” and said, “No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold millions of people hostage…”
Similarly, last week President Donald Trump blamed Democrats, particularly Schumer, for “holding our military hostage” because they want “unchecked illegal immigration.”
Pelosi and Schumer weren’t wrong five years ago that the federal government was disrupted due to Republicans (mostly just Ted Cruz) trying to defund Obamacare, and that it hurt some people. But on the other hand, were Republicans just trying to protect the millions of Americans who were also damaged when they saw health care premiums skyrocket or their old plans canceled due to the Affordable Care Act? (One later CNN poll showed that twice as many people said they were hurt by Obamacare rather than helped.)
Today, President Trump also isn’t wrong that the federal government’s primary disrupters at the moment are Democrats who won’t vote for the Senate spending bill unless something is done to protect the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from potentially being deported — children brought to the U.S. illegally years ago who are now adults.
But don’t Schumer and his fellow Democrats have a point? When strong majorities of Americans want these children of illegal immigrants given legal status — as does the president sometimes — doesn’t it need to happen? And also, morally, isn’t protecting these immigrants the right thing to do?
Again, just like in 2013, the current shutdown does hurt or threaten some people. But so would kicking out untold scores of people living in the United States who have done nothing wrong and are in many cases uniquely model Americans?
It’s amazing how transparently hypocritical politicians’ finger pointing becomes when these shutdowns happen.
Schumer even said in 2013, as an example of how the Democrats might mirror Cruz’s Obamacare defunding attempts, “We could say, ‘We’re shutting down the government; we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform.”
“It would be governmental chaos,” Schumer added back then.
Again, this is exactly what the Democrats are doing right now — shutting down the government over immigration concerns. Is Schumer’s “chaos” somehow acceptable in a way that Cruz’s wasn’t?
In the 19 total times the federal government has been shut down by both parties since 1976 — over abortion, defense funding, spending cuts, politicians’ social schedules (I’m not kidding), education funding, foreign aid, welfare, deficit reduction and balanced budgets, to name some causes — one side has frequently declared the other party legislative terrorists while also failing to mention that their party has done the same thing.
In almost every event, you can find a moral argument for holding “millions hostage” by shutting down the government to advance a political cause. Whether that cause is righteous or “legislative arson” depends on your politics and priorities. Whether a government shut down is reckless or warranted depends entirely on which party you belong to.
“I think the blame game is ridiculous on both sides, Senator Rand Paul said on CNN Sunday. Sen. Paul is also not supporting the current bill because it busts through budget caps and thus spends too much (also a valid concern that can potentially hurt all of us), with many of these dollars marked for Pentagon spending.
“Republicans and Democrats and everybody trying to say, ‘Oh, you don’t want to fund the military,'” Paul said, criticizing both parties. “Everybody wants to fund the military. Nobody wants our soldiers not to be paid,” he added.
“But when both sides do it, I think the American people see through it.”
Both sides have always done this, and right now, hopefully more Americans than ever do see through the rank hypocrisy that has long defined these shut down debates.