The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Special Shut-Down Edition

Rich Galen

Monday January 22, 2017

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  • As I write this on Monday morning the Federal government is still "shut down" although judging from the traffic on the George Washington Parkway this morning there are far more "essential" government workers than one might have thought.

  • I'll try not to get too deeply into the weeds about the details of this shutdown because (a) the story is moving very quickly, and (b) I don't understand them very well.

  • Here's how I look at this: Yes, Republicans control the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and all of the Executive Branch. So, Yes, Republicans have to bear a great deal of the blame for this situation.

  • You know that in the House if you get 218 votes, you win. Simple majority.

  • But, in the Senate, in most cases, you need 60 votes to be able to claim a victory.

  • Here's the arithmetic: The GOP has 51 Senators. The Dems have 49. That's when both are at full strength. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) needs 60 votes to proceed on a funding bill (which he does), then he needs at least 9 Democrats to come along.

  • It's possible, in an election year, to get three or four Ds to vote with the majority. If the Democrats in question come from states that voted pretty heavily for Trump 440 days ago, they may be loathe to give their as yet unnamed Republican challenger a major talking point that will last for the next 10 months.

  • So long as the number of those at-risk Dems don't total to nine, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il), looking ahead to November elections, likely gave those "endangered species" a pass.

  • On the actual vote to avoid a shutdown, five Democrats voted with the Rs, but Five Republicans voted with the Ds. You can see the list of who voted how on the Secret Decoder Ring page today.


    One of the Republicans who voted with the Ds was Majority (Republican) Leader Mitch McConnell. This was a parliamentary maneuver, not a statement of position. Someone can ask for a vote to be "reconsidered," that is, voted on again.

    But, that motion can only be made by someone who voted with the prevailing side. Thus, when it was clear the motion to proceed was going to fail, McConnell voted "Nay" (the prevailing side) in case it became clear a re-vote would change the result.


  • If you need Democrats to vote with you, it would appear to make some sense to throw something into the bill that will allow Democrats to do that.

  • Easy Peasy.

  • Problem is, if what the Democrats need (or demand) to be put into the bill is abhorrent to some Republicans, that is you lost Republican votes, then the numbers never work. If you're McConnell (and Durbin's GOP counterpart John Cornyn (R-Tx)) you need to find something that Democrats really want without losing Republican support.

  • Democrats want the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which only exists via an Executive Order signed by Barack Obama, to be codified - that is, to become a law. Donald Trump wants money to build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

  • Donald Trump decided that DACA would end (remember, Obama created it in the Oval Office) in March, hence the attention it is getting now.

  • What do these things have to do with a budget? Nothing and everything.

  • This is the tasty bacon the Dems want to vote for the Republican-backed budget bill.

  • Everything you saw or read over the weekend centered on the White House and the Senate.

  • However, there is that pesky House of Representatives that has to pass whatever the Senate sends over. The House passed a funding bill on Friday, but, as the Washington Post reported,
    "[A] federal shutdown moved closer to a certainty after Senate Democrats rallied against the GOP proposal, announcing they would not lend their votes to a bill that did not reflect their priorities on immigration, government spending and other issues."

  • That House bill didn't exactly sail through. The final vote was 229-197 and it is not at all clear that whatever goodies Sen. McConnell tosses to Sen. Schumer in return for Democratic votes will be acceptable to the Freedom Caucus in the House.

  • The Senate will take the first bite at the apple, but we'll have to see if the White House approves or not and whether Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) can rally his troops behind the new language.

  • See why this stuff is so hard?

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to that "how they voted" in the Senate, and to the "explainer" on the shutdown.

    The Mullfoto is from Chagrin Falls last week.

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