The government shutdown didn’t sneak up on anyone. Officials in Congress and the White House were aware of the Dec. 21 deadline for weeks, and leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were eager to state their opposition to a shutdown.
On Dec. 19, the path of least resistance was obvious: Congress would approve a stopgap spending bill, without wall funding for Donald Trump, the shutdown would be averted, and everyone would agree to fight again in the new year. The White House told Senate leaders that the president would sign such a bill, and the Republican-led chamber approved the measure on a voice vote. There were literally zero GOP opponents.
The mood was so relaxed that, as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told Rachel on the show last night, members were singing Christmas carols on the Senate floor. There was no need for tension or partisan bickering: everyone was on the same page. A crisis had been averted.
Soon after, the president, after consuming some conservative media, decided to oppose the bill that he’d endorsed. The shutdown soon followed.
Today, senators will have an opportunity to cast effectively the same vote, and the Democratic minority is eager to remind the Republican majority of what transpired five weeks ago. Politico reported:
Democrats said they were struggling to comprehend how a bill could pass the Senate by voice vote in December and then a similar plan could fail on the Senate floor a month later.
“Let’s just vote for what you’ve already voted for,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
It’s a compelling argument. It’d be one thing if Democrats were asking Republicans to change their position, but this is the opposite. GOP senators are being asked to endorse the same policy they supported a month ago.
A couple of caveats are in order. The first is that there are a handful of new senators who weren’t in the chamber five weeks ago, so they can credibly steer clear of criticisms on this point.
The second is that today’s bill isn’t word-for-word identical to the measure the Senate approved on Dec. 19: there are a handful of technical changes, and House Democrats added some uncontroversial disaster relief funding.
But the core of the proposals is obviously the same. The Senate passed a clean spending bill – called a “continuing resolution” (or CR) – ahead of the shutdown deadline without any opposition, and senators will have an opportunity this afternoon to do the same thing.
Republicans who voted “yea” five weeks ago are now expected to vote “nay” today.
The only thing that’s changed is Trump’s orders. The president said, “Dig,” and Republican senators replied, “How deep?”