Holst: Who to blame for the government shutdown


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Joshua Holst

Once again, due to either staggering incompetence or extraordinary stubbornness (or both), the federal government has been shut down. Naturally, both sides are pointing the finger of blame at the other, with Democrats saying that they need a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before they fund the government and Republicans insisting that Democrats are aiding illegal immigrants at the expense of the American people. And while playing the blame game doesn’t renew healthcare for 8.9 million children, it’s important to know who is responsible for the current situation.

If one views the situation from the simplest point of view possible, the Senate Democrats are the reason the government is currently shut down. Procedurally, their filibuster is the thing that prevented the short-term spending bill the Republicans proposed from passing. So, if one decides to completely ignore the reasoning and context behind the Democratic filibuster, then sure, it is their fault.

However, this is a very simplified way of looking at things. There is a very good reason for the Democratic filibuster, and it’s that they are pushing for a renewal of DACA.

DACA allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to defer deportation for two years, and then they can apply for renewal. It does not offer amnesty and it does not offer a path to citizenship. Further, the average age of DACA recipients at the time they first entered America is six and a half years old.

These are people that have been in America for most of their lives, through no fault of their own, and forcing them to leave is simply unreasonable and cruel. It’s not an extravagant demand to ask that any bill to fund the government include a measure that DACA remains in place for the foreseeable future.

Yet Mitch McConnell tweets about how “Democrats have a choice” between funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and continuing to fight for DACA, as if those are mutually exclusive things. Nothing is forcing Republicans, who have control of both the legislature and the presidency, to fund CHIP without passing a fix to DACA as well. They’re simply choosing not to, even when Democrats offer to attach additional border security onto the spending bill.

Now, this isn’t to say that Democrats are faultless in this whole process. They could’ve gotten immigration reform done when they controlled the legislature and presidency in 2009, and allowing the issues of CHIP and DACA to go this long without being taken care of is at least partially on their shoulders.

However, the Republicans are the governing party right now. It is on them to make sure kids don’t lose healthcare and people who have spent most of their lives in America don’t suddenly have to worry about being deported. These aren’t issues that should end up being used as political footballs, they should be no-brainers. And it is on the party in power that these issues have continued to be issues to this point.

Editor’s note: This article was written during the government shutdown. Since then, it has reopened and continued daily operations.