Opinion: Anthony Maine–Democrats Have the Wrong Target in the Shutdown Fight

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Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

As the federal government shutdown enters a third week, it’s becoming apparent that Democrats are aiming their rhetoric at the wrong target. President Trump’s demand of money for a physical wall at the Mexican border may not be popular with the public at large, but it’s a winner with his base, and whether out of delusion, or as some have argued an intentional strategy, Trump will unlikely relent. Trump was elected in part by those who wanted to wave a big middle finger at the political system and this wall funding impasse plays directly to that sentiment.

Democrats should instead press their advantage on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). If he let a vote occur on the funding bills as already approved by the House, the bills would easily pass and possibly with veto-proof majorities. The senior senator from Kentucky claims he won’t allow a vote on these bills if they don’t have Trump’s public endorsement. The political pain on McConnell therefore needs to become more targeted and more public. Senator Schumer (D-NY) should start and not stop pushing for a vote on the Senate floor, and gum up any other legislation or proceedings until a vote is allowed. House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) should refuse to allow any Senate-approved bills to go to the House floor. Democrats in Kentucky should organize any federal workers affected by the shutdown and raise as much stink and bad press as possible in McConnell’s home state. If McConnell relents and the bills pass, the onus would then more concretely shifted to Trump, daring him to veto the bills. Putting pressure instead on McConnell may not work, but it’s worth a try, and such an effort may prove useful as a practice run if and when articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate by the House.

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