“It’s not broken, it’s supposed to do that.”
“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”
“The system’s working fine, you’re just using it wrong.”
“The only problem here is user-related.”
I’ve heard many phrases like this in my life-long association with technology, but the phrase “It’s a feature, not a bug” didn’t really come into the lexicon until sometime in the early 2000’s, when some higher-up from Microsoft was quoted saying that in response to customer complaints about error screens they were getting in Windows. Since then, it’s become an inside joke within the IT world to describe a feature, device, program, or system that doesn’t work for the end user, but part of it, usually the error checking, is working normally.
Why am I talking about an IT inside joke? Because I feel that it’s relevant to the current situation.
Today is January 22, 2018. Monday. And Day 3 of the United States Government Shutdown. A shutdown that was completely avoidable, and 95% the fault of the Republican Party. I reserve 5% for the Democrats involved, but this is the same level of blame one would give to the owner of a dog that chewed a hole through the fence at the boarding kennel, broke out of the yard, and dug up the neighbors flowerbed. Sure, they could have done more to make sure the dog wasn’t left at a neglectful kennel, but they’re about fourth or fifth down the chain of responsibility.
Anyway, on Friday, I watched the Senate vote and fail to pass a spending bill. I sat back, had a couple glasses of wine, and heckled the television as Mitch McConnell blamed the Democrats for not passing the cloture threshold on the spending bill. While asking which one of the Ninja Turtles turned to evil and grew up to become a Senator from Kentucky, I realized a few things.
- I have absolutely no social life whatsoever at this point, and I’m happy with that.
- This shutdown was completely avoidable.
- I really like sweet red wine.
- This was put into motion last year when Trump rescinded the DACA protections.
- The White House has no interest in negotiating in good faith.
- The Republican Party Leadership is complicit in this mess.
- At any point in the last 4 months, since CHIP funding ran out, they could have reauthorized it, but decided to use it as a bargaining chip.
- At any point since October, Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation to codify DACA.
- This shutdown is a feature, not a bug.
That last one struck me. Not as hard as the headache the next morning when I woke up, but it still struck me. This shutdown was planned out since last year when Congress refused to give Trump even a penny for his border wall. Okay, “planned” is a little strong for these people. They can’t plan a lunch without screwing it up. But, the option of a shutdown was put into place.
I think that the Trump White House thought a Government Shutdown would be beneficial for them for a few reasons.
- It would force Congress to push their agenda.
- It fits with Trump’s “negotiating style.”
- It would make the Democrats look bad for standing against them.
- It would make the Democrats look bad for agreeing with them.
- It would shut down the Congressional Investigations into Trump.
- It would shut down the Special Counselor’s Investigation.
Congress doesn’t want to pay for a Mexican Border Wall, or a Muslim Immigration Ban. Congress doesn’t want to screw up all of the trade agreements, or mess with the treaties in place. They want to keep the lights on, keep things running, and lower taxes for their donors. Anything else is window dressing.
As far at “The Great Dealmaker” goes, a shutdown is the only way that he can fall back on his traditional methods of negotiation. From looking at Trump’s history in business, here’s how a typical business deal goes down…
- Engage in negotiations with someone in a lower position than you, like a small company or someone desperate for business.
- Demand onerous terms from the other party, while agreeing to give very little.
- Fail to deliver on even the pittance that you agreed to give in the first place.
- Fight your partner now opponent at every step of the way, until they’re no longer capable of defending themselves.
- Continue to attack your opponent and blame them for the eventual failure of the business while you run it into the ground to squeeze it for every spare penny possible.
- Shut the business down in an attempt to shift the blame, liquidate the assets, and move on to the next deal.
Any halfway competent President would have avoided a shutdown at the last minute when Chuck Schumer was willing to negotiate funding for the Border Wall in exchange for DACA. That right there should have been the end of the game. They could have walked out of the White House, shaking hands, high-fiving, and carried that bill proposal to the House and Senate for a vote. Instead, Trump is a terrible dealmaker. He wants everything, is unwilling to compromise, and is either too stupid to see a great deal, or is working for other means.
As far as the Democrats go, there’s no way they would come out of this in a good position. If they agree to the spending bill, they lose any chance of getting DACA on the floor for a vote before the March deadline. If they don’t agree, they’re stuck in the middle of a shutdown, and they actually realize how that’s a bad thing.
But, what if this is all part of some master plan by Trump and his Russian allies to shut down the government and the investigations into him? Well, that’s something to think about. Congress will be too busy arguing with each other to engage any committee work, and all of their pages and assistants are temporarily sort-of unemployed. The only work that Congress is doing now is restoring funding so that the government can work.
As far as Mueller goes, his investigation continues. Special Counselor investigations are funded by a special permanent indefinite appropriation, not an annual one like the standard budget. So, while the parks are closed and soldiers don’t get paid, Mueller’s team keeps showing up to work.
By the way, Senator Claire MacCaskill proposed an amendment to a bill that would allow the military to still be paid during the shutdown, but it would require unanimous consent. Mitch McConnell objected.
I mentioned earlier about the Cloture Threshold. Cloture, sometimes called a super majority, is the vote threshold that is required in the Senate to break a filibuster. A filibuster is an action or speech where a Senator can take the floor and not yield to anyone or anything. Currently, that threshold is 60. Unless special rules are enforced, like the reconciliation process used for the Tax Bill and the attempted Obamacare repeal, all Senate votes are treated as though they need to break a filibuster. This is because the filibuster has been relegated to a procedural tool to clog up work in the Senate.
The vote was 50-49 in favor of the last ditch spending bill. John McCain was in Arizona getting medical care. 5 Democrats, all from conservative states and facing reelection, voted for the bill. 4 Republicans, none of which are facing reelection in 2018, voted against it.
That’s it for now. I’ll be back later with some updates that happened over the weekend, including a story about several Russians attending Trump’s inauguration.
Thank you, and have a good one.