Congressional Republicans are likely to cooperate with Democrats even without obtaining provisions for President Donald Trump’s border wall to avoid another government shutdown, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (SFS ’66, LAW ’69) said at an event Monday.
The sole path towards preventing another shutdown is Senate Republicans defecting from Trump’s position on border wall funding, according to Durbin.
“The only way to avoid another shutdown is if Republican senators will join Democratic senators and say, ‘We’re just not going through with this again,’” Durbin said. “I think we’re close to that. I think there are enough Republicans that are just fed up with it.”
The event was hosted by the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service and moderated by the institute’s executive director, former spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee Mo Elleithee.
After a 35-day shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, Trump signed a spending bill Jan. 25 to reopen the government for three weeks. The shutdown began after House Democrats and Trump sparred over funding for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The spending bill will fund the government until Feb. 15. However, the bill did not include the border wall funding that Trump initially demanded from Congressional Democrats.
Durbin also said Republicans are likely to renege on their loyalty to Trump and stop supporting the border wall to prevent another shutdown Feb. 15.
“It will be hard as heck for the President to keep his ranks solid among Senate Republicans if he tries to go for another shutdown,” Durbin said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed that that will avoid the possibility.”
Trump is blocking the two parties from reaching a comprehensive immigration agreement, according to Durbin. In 2017, Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected young immigrants without documentation who entered the United States as children from deportation.
“There is room for compromise on border security and on immigration, once we believe people are coming at this with goodwill,” Durbin said. “Currently, some of the statements made by President Trump in the campaign make people in the immigration community wary of whether he’ll ever reach an agreement and I’m one of them.”
The Trump administration also pushed to end a humanitarian program in 2018 that was enacted in 2001 following the devastating earthquakes in El Salvador that allowed Salvadorans to live and work legally in the United States.
Democrats need to confront their party’s weakness in the Midwest in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election by improving their economic message, Durbin said.
The party connect to Midwestern voters by focusing on health care and highlighting provisions from the Affordable Care Act that protect individuals with pre-existing medical conditions from discrimination, according to Durbin.
“We discovered that those words were killer words when it came to the Republican position on the Affordable Care Act, because there is hardly a person alive that doesn’t know someone with a pre-existing condition, and they are usually in their family and the notion that they would be tossed into a marketplace, an unforgiving marketplace, was unacceptable,” Durbin said. “It was more than just an economic issue, it was an issue of justice and fairness.”
Enacted in 2010, The Affordable Care Act, also commonly known as Obamacare, made health insurance available to more people by providing consumers with subsidies and expanding the Medicaid program to cover all adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Democrats marketed the Affordable Care Act with the promise that insured Americans could keep their present healthcare plan. That promise diminished the credibility among Democrats, according to Durbin.
“You’ve got to make sure that in the process people feel that they are not being hurt, they are not being forced into decisions about their medical care that they don’t want to make and don’t want to get caught up in,” Durbin said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies cannot keep selling plans that do not cover prescription drugs and maternity care. This restriction resulted in hundreds of thousands of subscribers who previously chose to purchase plans without prescription drugs and maternity care receiving notices saying that their insurance plans were no longer available, according to The Washington Post.
After the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives. The diversity of these new representatives will reinvigorate the Democratic Party, according to Durbin.
“What I like about the cast of new characters among the Democratic Caucus in the house is the diversity and variety,” Durbin said. “Diversity, to me, sends a message out that this Democratic Party is open for business. No matter what you look like, what your background is, what your personal or religious beliefs might be, we are open to sit down and talk and make you part of who we are.”