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Schumer Didn’t ‘Sell Out’ — He Folded A Bad Hand To Play Again

If the recent brief government shutdown accomplished nothing else, it sent Donald Trump into hiding for three days, no small blessing.
 Somebody convinced him that golfing in Florida would look bad, and his minders didn’t trust him to do any actual negotiating, so the president holed up in the White House watching TV and yakking on the phone. Incidentally, can’t Melania do something about his low-rent habit of wearing a hat in the house? Assuming that she’s even talking to the big dope in the wake of this porn-star payoff business.
 Anyway, if I want to see a countdown clock in the corner of the screen, I’ll watch a ballgame. The TV news networks’ turning congressional politics into ratings-building melodrama, complete with good guys, bad guys, and manufactured suspense, definitely ain’t helping. It rewards dogmatism over pragmatism, reducing complex issues to a simple game with clear-cut winners and losers.
 That’s what the NFL playoffs are for. But it’s basically the opposite of what the Founders intended the US Senate to be. Sure, Election Day can be exciting, but the shutdown drama was just bad TV.  Cable news channels devoted last weekend to showing politicians milling about in Senate chambers waiting for something to happen.
 Evidently nothing of interest was taking place anywhere else in the world. Observing the spectacle, it easy to agree with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA): “Our country was founded by geniuses, but it’s being run by idiots,” he said.
As a Republican, Kennedy probably didn’t mean to say that the head idiots are named Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. But the GOP does control the White House and both houses of Congress. And it’s important to understand how those worthies connived to tempt Democrats into picking a fight they couldn’t possibly win—pretty much as the party’s embittered left-wing now insists minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) should have done.
New York Times columnist Michele Goldberg led the charge. “’Make no mistake: Schumer and Dems caved,’ tweeted Fox News’s Brit Hume. ‘What a political fiasco.’ It makes me sick to say it,” Goldberg wrote, “but he’s right.”
Goldberg also quoted one Ezra Levin, identified as the co-founder of a left-wing advocacy group modeled on the Tea Party. “It’s Senator Schumer’s job as minority leader to keep his caucus together and stand up for progressive values and he failed to do it,” Levin said. “He led them off a cliff. They caved.”
But probably because I spend more time watching ballgames than MSNBC, I tend to see things differently. See, there’s no such thing as a six-run home run. You can’t throw a Hail Mary pass for a 21-point touchdown. Poker players understand that when you’re holding a pair of sixes, it’s time to fold and play another hand. Which is basically what Schumer did.
Did shutting down the US government in 1995 help Newt Gingrich prevail in a budget struggle against President Clinton? It did not, and it led to Clinton’s easy re-election. Did Republicans shutting down the government in 2013 lead President Obama to ditch the Affordable Care Act? No. What’s more, for all its huffing and puffing, the GOP still hasn’t been able to kill the law.
Schumer simply didn’t have the votes to make anything happen.
Meanwhile, the top trending hashtag pushed by Russian bots on Twitter was “#SchumerShutdown.” Trump’s Kremlin supporters, see, have a strong interest in promoting ethnic and racial discord in the US. They hope to use the DACA or “Dreamers” issue to divide and weaken the country. So do hardline anti-immigrant Republicans, such as White House aide Stephen Miller and a minority of GOP hotheads in the House.
But they haven’t got the votes either. Not even close. Indeed, even the most recent Fox News poll shows 83 percent of Americans support granting permanent resident status to the “Dreamers”—young workers, students, and soldiers—brought to the US illegally by their parents as small children.
Would even Trump be willing to start deporting these young Americans to countries they’ve never known starting in March?  It’s hard to imagine. Indeed, compromise DACA legislation passed the Senate in 2013, and will almost surely pass again unless Senate Majority Leader McConnell goes back on his word in the glare of the spotlight that Schumer’s compromise has put him in.  
If McConnell does renege, Democrats could always vote for another shutdown until he relents.
 Senate passage would then put Speaker Ryan in a box. Very likely a bipartisan House majority would also support DACA—that is, if the Speaker lets them vote contrary to the “Hastert Rule,” ironically named for the famous GOP child molester and champion of one-party government.
Ryan wouldn’t allow it in 2013, but again thanks to Schumer’s compromise, the GOP now owns the issue.
 As for the president who would have to sign it, which one? Will he be the deal maker or “Sh**hole Don?”    

Democrats End Trump Shutdown After Republicans Commit To DREAM Act Vote

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

After Donald Trump and the Republicans spent three days failing to get their act together, Democrats helped end the Trump shutdown in exchange for a promise that DREAMers will finally get a vote within the next two weeks, according to a senior Democratic aide.

“We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up or down vote on the floor,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said from the Senate floor.

On Friday, Trump scuttled a deal to keep the government open, then spent the weekend loafing while his underlings —with the help of Russian bots — failed at trying to pin the shutdown on Democrats.

But on Monday, Schumer struck a deal with Republicans to provide enough votes to reopen the government, in exchange for a promise that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring an immigration bill up for a vote.

Democrats also secured six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Republicans allowed to expire last September, and which they subsequently held hostage in the shutdown negotiations.

Schumer made the results of that test explicit. “The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the DREAMers from being deported,” he said.

If McConnell fails to honor his pledge, Democrats will once again have the opportunity to hold fast for DREAMers, while Republicans will be forced to put their money where their mouth is and provide the fix for DACA they have said they want.

The onus is now on Republicans to keep their commitments, and to keep the government open past that Feb. 8 deadline.

7 Things You Should Know About Martin O’Malley

Martin O’Malley, the ambitious former governor of Maryland and former mayor of Baltimore, is expected to announce his run for the presidency Saturday. The key to understanding him is his unshakeable belief in the dignity of all human beings. That conviction underpins his politics, and has made him both an object of admiration and a target for skepticism. For those who may not be familiar with O’Malley, who is sure to shake up the Democratic field, here’s a primer on this progressive politician.

1. He’s been a hotshot in politics for a long time.

Esquire named him “The Best Young Mayor in the Country” in 2002, and three years later, Time called him one of America’s “Top 5 Big City Mayors.” That same year, BusinessWeek said he, along with Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, was one of five new stars of the Democratic Party.

2. He’s not Tommy Carcetti.

Tommy Carcetti, the fictional Baltimore councilman who eventually becomes mayor and then governor in the iconic show The Wire, might be how many people outside Maryland first heard of Martin O’Malley. While there are some parallels — most notably when it comes to O’Malley’s record on crime — many elements of Carcetti are very clearly fictional, and have even contributed to negative rumors during O’Malley’s first campaign for governor.

3. He’s had national ambitions for a long time.

Back in 2007, just a couple of months into his tenure as governor, his bigger aspirations were spelled out in a Washington Post piece: “It’s the worst-kept secret in Maryland that the governor has national ambitions,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, while Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said, “I think it comes into play in everything he does, quite frankly. He’s very much like Bill Clinton in being slow and deliberative and calculating in everything he does.”

Even 10 years earlier, when he was a city councilman, there was speculation about what he would do next.

4. He’s a longtime supporter of the Clintons. He’s even jammed with them.

A proud Irish-Catholic (he graduated from Catholic University), he spent many years performing in a Celtic rock band as an extracurricular activity outside his government work. He played guitar on a presidential delegation returning from Northern Ireland in 2000, which cemented his relationship with the Clintons (Bill being a musician himself). In fact, in an interesting twist, he was one of the first to endorse Hillary Clinton in 2008.

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5. He’s against the death penalty.

Right after taking office as governor, he testified to the Maryland legislature that the death penalty is “inherently unjust” and an affront to “individual human dignity,” although most of his arguments were pragmatic, rather than moral, in nature.

He told Rachel Maddow in 2009, “Time will prove that the death penalty is inconsistent with sound policy. It’s expensive. It does not work. It is not a deterrent. It takes money away from things that do save lives. …I believe it’s fundamentally at odds with some of the most important founding principles of this republic, namely our belief in the dignity of every individual.”

During his tenure, Maryland repealed the death penalty.

6. Although he’s a devout Catholic, he’s deviated from some fundamental Catholic positions, like on abortion and homosexuality.

This has angered some Catholics, with one calling on him to either renounce his faith and leave the Church or call himself “a dissenting Catholic” and abstain from communion.

Yet O’Malley doesn’t see any contradictions in his beliefs: “I found that the passage of marriage equality actually squares with the most important social teachings of my faith, which is to believe in the dignity of every person, and to believe in our own responsibility to advance the common good. Part of that advancement means changing laws when they are unjust, when they are not applied equally to all people,” he told The Des Moines Register.

7. He passed the DREAM Act. 

O’Malley has long been a supporter of immigrant rights, and he has referred to undocumented immigrants as “new Americans.”

In 2011, he signed legislation that let Maryland residents get in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status, as long as they met certain requirements. Despite a Republican-led state referendum on the issue, residents approved the DREAM Act that O’Malley championed.

“By speaking in humanitarian terms, O’Malley is helping to reframe the discussion, and forcing fellow Democrats to clarify their positions,” wrote John Nichols in The Nation.

“We are not a country that should send children away and send them back to certain death,” O’Malley said at a 2014 National Governors Association meeting in Nashville. “I believe that we should be guided by the greatest power we have as a people, and that is the power of our principles. Through all of our great world religions, we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity.”

Photo: A guitar-playing, devout Irish Catholic who is favor of abortion and gay marriage, abolishing the death penalty, and passed the DREAM Act. Meet Martin O’Malley. Gregory Hauenstein via Flickr

Can The GOP Learn From California?

LOS ANGELES — Jim Brulte, California’s Republican chairman, has sobering but useful words for his party’s leaders and 2016 candidates: If they don’t learn from what happened to the GOP here, they may doom themselves to repeating its decidedly unpleasant experience.

“California is the leading edge of the country’s demographic changes,” Brulte said in an interview. “Frankly, Republicans in California did not react quickly enough to them, and we have paid a horrible price.”

One measure of the cost: In the three presidential elections of the 1980s, California voted twice for Ronald Reagan and once for George H. W. Bush. The state has not gone Republican since, and it won’t get any easier in 2016.

The hole is deep enough that Brulte has concentrated his own energies on rebuilding the party from the bottom up. He has enjoyed some real successes at the local and county levels, and the GOP eliminated the Democrats’ veto-proof majorities in the state legislature in the 2014 midterms.

But the Republicans are still vastly outnumbered in both houses — 25-14 in the state Senate, 52-28 in the Assembly — and the Democrats picked up a seat in 2014 in the U.S. House of Representatives. They have won all of California’s statewide offices in three of the last four elections. The last time that happened: 1882.

The principal cause of the GOP’s troubles is its alienation of Latinos, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans in a state whose population is now a majority non-white. Republicans can win in 2016 without carrying California, but the party’s struggles here highlight the extent to which the GOP is making its life in presidential years very difficult with its increasingly hard line on immigration, its image as a bastion for older, white conservatives, and its solicitude for Americans with very high incomes. When House Republicans in Washington voted to repeal the estate tax last week, it was helping all of 5,400 of the wealthiest households in America, not exactly a move with mass appeal.

As has often been the case in American history, California is simply the harbinger of changes — in this case demographic — that are happening more slowly elsewhere. “The one thing no one can stop,” says Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat who was elected to Congress here in 2014, “is that every month, the rest of America looks more like California.”

The Republicans’ problem with Latino voters is especially pronounced here. The passage of Proposition 187 in 1994 with the strong support of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson — the ballot measure barred illegal immigrants from a variety of state services — simultaneously alienated Hispanic voters from the GOP and mobilized many of them into the political process.

The same thing is now happening nationally. The growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the GOP has cut the Republicans’ Latino share of the vote from the 40-percent range for George W. Bush to 27 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012. The party’s strenuous opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will only make this problem more acute.

But even more remarkably, Republicans have also suffered severe declines among Asian-Americans. According to the exit polls, a majority of Asian-Americans voted for George H.W. Bush in 1988. But in 2012, Romney won only 26 percent of their ballots.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Democrat whose district here includes Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, and Historic Filipinotown, notes that when he was first elected to Congress in 1992, a large share of Asian-Americans leaned Republican. That’s no longer true, and both Becerra and Lieu pinpointed the immigration issue as the primary cause for the shift.

Republican opposition to the DREAM Act, designed to give relief to illegal immigrants brought to the United States as minors, especially rankled Asian-Americans, Lieu said: “Republicans were saying, ‘Come support us, we like you, but we want to deport your children.'”

Brulte thus takes particular pride in his outreach efforts to Asian-Americans. His party’s victorious legislative candidates last year included state Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, and Young Kim, the first Korean-American Republican woman to serve in the California Legislature.

But this was only a start, and as 2016 approaches, every GOP candidate should tack this reminder from Brulte on a headquarters wall: “In 2012, Mitt Romney carried 59 percent of the white vote and he carried independents. In 2004, this would have elected him president. In 2000, it would have given him an Electoral College landslide. In 2012, it gave him second place.”

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne. 

Photo: Ed Uthman via Flickr