Did you hear? The federal government is back in business!
But wait — it gets better: Fully one-half of the Legislative Branch has promised, publicly, to do its job! Maybe in the very near future!
In Washington, they call this “breaking the logjam.”
And since every journey begins with a single step, perhaps we should acknowledge the progress our elected representatives have made before we point out how far they have yet to travel before voters see anything like a functioning government on the horizon.
Monday’s agreement to postpone the next government shutdown for at least another three weeks marked the conclusion of a political drama that began two weeks ago, when President Donald Trump convened a meeting of senators from both parties and charged them to conjure “a bill of love” that would 1) keep the government open and 2) resolve a decades-old partisan deadlock on immigration policy.
OK, so maybe that was a teensy-bit ambitious.
Still, the president promised, if lawmakers could work out such a compromise, he would not only sign it into law but take the political heat for it.
Oops! He did it again.
And the amazing thing is, they actually pulled it off, producing a bipartisan agreement that provided protection for young immigrants threatened with deportation and more funding for border security.
When I say “they,” of course, I mean the lawmakers, not the president, whose advisers alertly wrestled the bipartisan agreement to the ground and whisked it off to Guantanamo before it could endanger the president’s standing with his base.
Democrats cried foul. Republicans responded by accusing Democrats of sabotaging health care for children. And in no time at all, security guards were padlocking restrooms at the Washington National Zoo, because that’s how a great democracy stands up for the principles it believes in.
Then, late Sunday night, in an act of political bravery that would certainly merit its own chapter in an updated version of President John Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to bring a piece of legislation supported by around 3 of every 4 Americans to an up-or-down vote in the Senate by Feb. 8, except in the unlikely event that one of McConnell’s GOP colleagues has to wash his hair that night.
So an 11th-hour shampoo could still derail the whole thing. But probably the Senate will actually vote on legislation to protect Dreamers, and probably it will pass easily, and then all that has to happen is for the House to pass it and the president to sign it, a simple three-step sequence that is about as likely as the Detroit Lions winning last year’s Super Bowl.
And that’s a shame, really, because protecting immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children is one of the few immigration priorities Americans agree on. A majority of Republicans and Democrats in Senate support it. So do a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the the House. So does the president, if you ask him on a Tuesday or Friday before lunch.
So we ought to have a straight up or down vote on Dreamers, ideally before Congress moves on to thornier issues, such as how many restrooms people visiting the National Zoo really need.