Senate Democrats today all but formally shelved their on-again, off-again threats to hold a stopgap spending bill hostage to progress toward an immigration bill. In truth, they really abandoned the threat when they (or at least 31 of them) voted to reopen the federal government on January 22 despite failing to secure anything other than a commitment from Mitch McConnell to hold a Senate vote (and only a Senate vote) on immigration bills at some point in the near future. But it looks like the whole subject of immigration did not even come up in the talks that led to a bipartisan Senate plan for a fifth stopgap spending bill.
But meantime, in a moment of great irony, Donald J. Trump seemed to issue a threat of his own to trigger a government shutdown if his own immigration proposals aren’t instantly adopted. Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to come out and walk back the threats before they derailed the entire deal in Congress and caused an actual shutdown.
What happened here? Was Trump so out of it that he didn’t realize the only people talking about shutting down the government over immigration policy are the House Democrats (and the minority of Senate Democrats expressing solidarity with them) who violently disagree with him on virtually every aspect of the subject? Or is this a sign of how rapidly the debate has moved away from the DACA-for-border-security deal everyone expected a few weeks ago and toward the broader and meaner deal Trump and his restrictionist staff and allies have been proposing?
Actually, both explanations could be true: Trump may be pushing a new advantage in the immigration fight without really understanding how it does and does not intersect with the spending talks. Or he may just be raging irrationally, and/or needs a Coke or some ice cream.
We’ll have to all tune in tonight or tomorrow to find fresh clues to what our unpredictable president is actually thinking.