Democrats are threatening to shut down the federal government to stop Republicans from using the budget process to advance policy goals, a move they once called “hostage taking.”
What drastic measures are Democrats planning to stop passage of a new spending bill, and what did they hypocritically say about the same thing just a few years ago?
In a March 13 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Democrats would block passage of spending measures should such bills include provisions they don’t like.
“We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s administration,” reads Schumer’s letter.
At issue are proposals to defund EPA programs, cut off taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood or build a security wall on the U.S./Mexico border.
Republicans hold 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats. Should Democrats try to block a vote on a new spending measure by holding debate, it would take 60 votes to close the debate and hold the vote. That means any new spending measure needs the support of eight Democrats.
Such a move would be met by a Democrat filibuster, blocking passage of the spending measure and forcing the government to close all non-essential functions, which the media call a “government shutdown.”
It’s a move Democrats once compared to terrorism, and which the then-Democrat president called “hostage taking.”
In September 2013 a group of 14 conservative Republican senators withheld their support of a bill to continue federal government funding at then-current levels, refusing to pass any budget that funded Obamacare.
The impasse resulted in the temporary closure of non-essential government functions, until several weeks later when McConnell garnered enough Republican support to force through a bill.
The same Democrats who promise a government shutdown in 2017 had a different opinion in 2013.
“These things sometimes get resolved at the last minute, but right now I’m worried because we have a small group of fanatics who seem to have a stranglehold on the Republican Party,” Schumer said in the days before the 2013 shutdown.
“No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold millions of people hostage,” said Schumer.
“That’s what the other side is doing. That’s wrong and we can’t give in to that,” he added.
In another interview at the time, Schumer compared blocking passage of spending bills to ritual human sacrifice.
“Do we have to sacrifice the economy and help for millions of middle class people?” Schumer told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s real people with real lives at stake, and just to sacrifice them to the right-wing gods, for the sake of a day or two of showing, ‘Oh yes, we’re serious,’ is a very cynical operation.”
Does this mean Schumer will change his title from Senate Minority Leader to Cynical Hostage Taker?