NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Who’s holding who hostage in DACA dispute?

Let’s be clear: It was the Democrats who caused the three-day government shutdown.

While Republicans voted in overwhelming numbers to keep the government open for business, 97 percent of Democrats in the House and 92 percent in the Senate voted to close the federal government, thus stop paying our troops and the U.S. Border Patrol and, as the National Review pointed out “deny medical care to some 9 million children … enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

It was, of course, because of the Senate Republicans’ thin majority and need for a 60-vote approval that the Democrats were able to stall the spending bill and shut down the government Friday night.

Democrats blocked funds to keep the government open until permanent protection could be offered to the 800,000 or so younger immigrants (Dreamers) who were brought to the country as children and are now living here illegally through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

Fortunately, on Monday Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations for the next two weeks, and the House approved the spending measure, which President Trump quickly signed.

Democrats relented in return for Republican Speaker Mitch McConnell’s assurances that the Senate will resume negotiations over the future of the Dreamers, border security, military spending and other budget debates. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reportedly convinced Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., to agree to begin debate on an immigration bill by Feb. 8. Schumer’s deal with McConnell was thought to be so the Democrats could avoid taking the blame for the shutdown.

While we are glad the Democrats suddenly reversed direction Monday after seeming to be unyielding, we can’t understand why they voted down the spending plan in the first place.

“The bill that they’re opposing is a bill that they support, which is just baffling to us,” House Speaker Paul Ryan explained Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “What’s so baffling about this was we were negotiating in good faith on DACA all the same. We actually want to solve this problem. So it’s not as if we were saying, ‘No way, no how … no discussions.’ They blew up the negotiations that were already underway.”

The sudden turn by Democrats spurred an angry response from those in their own camp who expected them to continue the fight for legislation to protect young illegal immigrants from deportation. In relenting, they may have feared that voters would be averse to halting the operations of government for the sake of protecting immigrants who are here illegally.

We expect Democrats and liberal critics to continue to use the DACA issue as a cudgel to wrongly attack Republicans as racist and anti-immigration and to stifle productive actions in Congress. But Americans must insist that they curb their bitter partisanship and that Republicans likewise quit their infighting and unite in order to help enact an immigration bill that will serve the nation well.