Blame Game Begins Over Shutdown
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Going to turn now to NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks very much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: You heard Democratic Senator Van Hollen. We had Republican Congressman Cole. What points do they make that stand up for you?
ELVING: These are a couple of reasonable guys, and they are making reasonable arguments. And if they were speaking for the two parties, I very much doubt we'd have a shutdown this morning. But it's not clear how representative they are of their respective parties. What we're seeing instead is a couple of parties being pulled back from compromise by elements of their own coalitions, their hardcore backers, if you will.
So both sides are rather at odds with the larger middle of the rest of the country, the political culture of America. And the real sticking point here isn't what's in the bill. It's what's not in the bill - the fix for DREAMers that the Democrats feel they've been promised over and over again that they've negotiated and they want to see done. And they only can see a vehicle for that in a must-pass bill like this spending bill.
SIMON: Well, they thought they had a deal this week, didn't they?
ELVING: Yes, indeed. And they went to the White House. And the president said he'd sign whatever the deal was. And then it appears that a couple of people in the White House - at least maybe more than a couple - policy adviser Stephen Miller, chief of staff John Kelly seemed to have talked to the president, and then the president changed his mind. It's a widely shared impression. And we don't know exactly what goes on inside the White House. But the senators who wanted a deal were really unhappy about the influence of those two individuals on where the president stood. And so now at this point, we really don't know where the president stands.
SIMON: The Senate meets later today. Where do they stand? What kind of movement do you see there?
ELVING: They are going to try to pass, as Senator Van Hollen just referred to, a very, very short-term stopgap spending measure - just a matter of a few days. That would supposedly force everyone to stay at the negotiating table over the weekend. The president did not go to Mar-a-Lago, and he is theoretically available. And even though there's no guarantee of a breakthrough, at least it would keep people talking. And if the Senate gets a short-term extension it's probable that the House would go along, although, on the other hand, we always have to see. Both chambers have to vote.
SIMON: I have to tell you - on Twitter, a man named Johnny Lovato (ph) has suggested this be called shutdown hole (laughter), which raises the question, is this going to be known as a Schumer shutdown or a Trump shutdown?
ELVING: Which phrase you hear on which cable news channel you watch will probably determine which you think it is. Or maybe that's going to determine which cable channel you watch. But the two parties would clearly prefer to have a deal, but they also fear any deal that offends the hardest core of their political base. So Republicans have been moving away from their previous positions. They've been moving away from things they said they would accept. The Democrats have also dug in their heels on this.
It was surprising to see that there were a handful of bailouts on both sides. We should give credit to those senators who are willing to buck their own party - both Republicans and Democrats. And maybe on the basis of that and on the basis, I think, of the country's disgust with these very short-term stopgap spending measures that we've had one after another - this is the fourth since October - that combination may actually get people to the table and may actually get people to bend.
SIMON: Is there a political cost for this, though? Because people keep winning elections.
ELVING: That's right. And there are elections in November. And sometimes, it's hard to know how that particular ball is going to bounce.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent on the Washington desk, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.