The Untold Story of the Shutdown

There is an untold story behind the weekend announcement that the federal government would reopen until February 15. Lawmakers in both parties will work to find common ground on the stalemate that partially closed the government for 35 days.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi crowed “our unity is our power”. But in the House her total refusal to negotiate with President Trump and find a compromise was quickly and quietly eroding this support beneath her.

On January 17, Republicans offered a motion on the House floor to pay all federal workers their mid-January paycheck – a ‘paychecks over politics’ effort to relieve the pain on federal workers during this unnecessary shutdown. While all GOP lawmakers backed the effort, only six Democrats joined them.

The next week as lines at airports grew longer and federal workers appeared at food banks and searched for second jobs, House Republicans offered the same motion during debate. This time ten Democrats left their hard-line party, disagreeing with Pelosi’s cynical “maximum pain” strategy that believed the more federal workers hurt, the better leverage it was against President Trump. 

The following day, January 24, the motion to pay all federal workers fully was again offered. This time, despite furious arm twisting by Speaker Pelosi and her lieutenants, 13 Democrats sided with Republicans and federal workers.

This was quickly becoming a critical problem for Pelosi. If only six more Democrats put federal workers and their families ahead of shutdown politics, the GOP motion would prevail and her leverage disappear. 

At the same time, 30 frustrated House Democrats sent Pelosi a letter outlining a process to hold House votes on a compromise to fund border security, extend DACA provisions and reopen the government.

To make matters worse for Speaker Pelosi, more congressional Democrats were publicly acknowledging the harm from an open border and the need for more resources to secure it. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota flatly said, “Give Trump the money. Why are we fighting over this? We’re going to build that wall anyway.”

Pelosi was getting the message from her troops that it was past time to stop the obstructionism and find common ground with the president.

Ultimately, she and President Trump agreed on a three-week reopening and to negotiate – something she had adamantly refused to do whether the government was open or not. Although all Texas Democrats stuck with Pelosi and her dangerous ‘not one dollar’ for border security, Texas is paying a steep price in the forms of human trafficking, gang violence, drug trafficking and violent crime from a porous southern border.

The real irony is that the estimated cost to the economy for this partial-government shutdown is $6 billion, more than the $5.7 billion the President requested for the border security.

I’ll continue to back President Trump’s insistence to fully fund crucial border security while extending key DACA provisions as the president has offered. He’s asking for one-tenth of one percent of the federal budget for 230 miles of barriers where it makes sense, more technology, portable scanners for drug detection, humanitarian and medical aid, more border agents and personnel to address the 800,000 case border backlog.

It’s time to find common ground and keep this government open. Our families, workers and communities deserve it.    


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