Tonight, the Senate failed to approve a funding bill that would have kept the government fully open and operating for the time being. Nearly every Republican Senator voted for the bill. The only exceptions were two pro-amnesty Senators — Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake — and two anti-spending hardliners — Rand Paul and Mike Lee.
Nearly every Democratic Senator voted against the bill. The only exceptions were five Red State Dems — Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, and Jones — four of whom (all but Jones) are up for reelection this year.
Clearly, then, the shutdown (actually a partial shutdown) is the Democrats’ handiwork.
Which party will the public blame, though. The polls are inconclusive. A Washington Post poll finds that, by a 20-point margin, more Americans blame President Trump and Republicans than Democrats.
However, a CNN poll finds that 56 percent of Americans think it’s more important to avoid a government shutdown than to “continue DACA.” 34 percent think it is somehow more important to “continue DACA.” Since this is essentially what the Senate voted on tonight, the Republican’s position plainly is not without considerable potential appeal compared to that of the Democrats.
The fact that Senators like McCaskill and Donnelly voted to avoid the shutdown may also be revealing. Sure, Missouri and Indiana are Red States. But if the Democrats’ position really was the more popular one by 20 points nationally, it would also be popular enough in these states that McCaskill and Donnelly wouldn’t feel politically compelled to vote with the Republicans, and thereby risk being “primaried.”
I wonder, though, whether either party would be blamed to an appreciable degree for an extended partial government shutdown. Unlike President Obama, President Trump has every incentive to make the partial shutdown citizen friendly. And, as Steve explained earlier today, there’s not much inherently unfriendly about a government shutdown in any case.
It’s true, I think, that most Americans view extended partial shutdowns as unseemly even when they have no real impact on their daily lives. No one gets a tax refund in exchange for the government performing less than all of its functions. And shutdowns produce a sense that we are drifting towards banana republic status. But absent real hardship, only strong partisans are likely to become truly exercised.
This particular shutdown isn’t likely to be extended. If both sides keep their nerve, they probably will agree pretty soon to call this round a draw, pass something that temporarily keeps the government fully funded, see if the impasse can be resolved in the coming weeks, and if not, have the big showdown next month or in March.