With a Government Shutdown Looming, Democrats Finally Have Leverage

government shutdown

The lights will remain on in the federal government for another two weeks. On Thursday, Congress passed a stop-gap measure to keep funding at current levels and avoid a government shutdown as they hammer out the details of the 2018 budget.

A government shutdown would be embarrassing for the Republican-controlled Congress, which has been lean on legislative accomplishments this year. But in order to pass the budget, Republicans will need the cooperation of least eight Democrats in order to meet the required 60-vote threshold

Because their votes are needed, Democrats are in an excellent position to bargain. They are hoping to use their upper hand to push through some legislative priorities such as securing protections for undocumented immigrants through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ensuring funding for the child health insurance plan (CHIP).

Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are among a group of high profile Democrats who are publicly saying they will oppose any spending bill that does not include protections for DREAMers.

Bargaining has worked for Democrats in the past. Earlier this year, they were able to deny funding for Trump’s border wall and keep Planned Parenthood funded during budget negotiations for 2017. Republicans are likely to push these issues again, but Democrats should remain firm.

“We did this in April, and started out with 160 poison pills, the wall, and we sat down and got rid of all the poison pills and [the] wall,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We did it before, and we’ll do it again.”

President Trump, with his veto power, will have the last word on whether the budget moves ahead. However, it’s possible that he would shoulder the blame for a shutdown if he refused to sign the final bill.

As of now, Congress has two more weeks to make a deal.