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Politics In The News: Partial Government Shutdown


It is Monday morning, and the U.S. government is still shut down. That means hundreds of thousands of federal workers are staying home today. Bipartisan talks over the weekend did not produce an agreement to end the shutdown. But there are some signs of compromise. The Senate is meeting this morning and holding a procedural vote at noon Eastern time for a temporary spending bill. That would be another of the stopgap measures to open the government back up. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night.


MITCH MCCONNELL: When the Democrat filibuster of the government funding bill ends, the serious bipartisan negotiations that have been going on for months now to resolve our unfinished business, military spending, disaster relief, health care, immigration and border security, will continue.

GREENE: OK, that's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was negotiating a deal with Democrats over the weekend, pointed to a different problem. That would be Trump adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we're going nowhere. He's been an outlier for years.

GREENE: Jonah Goldberg is with us again this morning. He's senior editor at National Review. Jonah, thanks for coming in.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Hey, great to be here.

GREENE: So talking about the blame game here, I mean, Lindsey Graham, a Republican, is he basically suggesting that this is the Trump shutdown?

GOLDBERG: He's certainly not helping with the White House's messaging. I think that's for sure. Look, I'm of the school that says, you know, if hypocrisy were helium, everybody would have higher voices and some people would just float away.

GREENE: (Laughter) You're wondering if everyone would just start floating away from Washington...

GOLDBERG: Yeah. I mean...

GREENE: ...Then the government would reopen.

GOLDBERG: (Laughter) You know, basically, everybody is contradicting some position they had in the past on some of this. And so the contest right now is for everybody to sort of seem the most disappointed and the most reasonable. And we saw that last night with Senator McConnell. We see that with Chuck Schumer. I think that even explains why Donald Trump has stayed out of the limelight for the last couple of days because everyone wants to make it sound like we're the voice of reason, we're trying to fix this and it's the other guys who are the problem.

GREENE: Well, the Democrats, I mean, obviously as everyone would argue they're being reasonable, the Democrats are arguing they're being reasonable, they just - immigration is near and dear to them. They are fighting for the so-called DREAMers, and they're saying that they are going to stand on principle here. What do you see as unreasonable in that argument here?

GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, what they are saying is - which contradicts their positions in past shutdowns - is that they are going to vote - they're voting against funding the government, despite the fact there was nothing in the legislation to fund the government that they opposed. They wanted to add new issues that were controversial to it, which is a very Ted Cruzian (ph) kind of position. And part of the problem in parsing all of this is that, you know, a lot of these terms get thrown around quite glibly. You know, DREAMers, DACA kids, those terms are used interchangeably. But DACA kids, many of whom are not kids anymore, are about 800,000 people.

The DREAMers are a couple million. And a lot of serious policy objectives get snuck in either by Lindsey Graham or by Dick Durbin or by Chuck Schumer or by the White House without fully explaining the consequences of a lot of these things. And everyone wants to seem like they're the reasonable one doing it. You know, there's a lot of talk in Washington over the weekend about how Chuck Schumer offered to pay for the wall. But the White House budget director Mick Mulvaney was saying, well, no, he promised to authorize building it, not fund it, which is a...

GREENE: We'll start looking at the devil could be in the details...

GOLDBERG: Yeah, that's sort of my thought.

GREENE: ...When we start digging into stuff that people say. You wrote on Friday one of the most important democratic norms is the idea that the political opposition is the opposition, it's not an existential enemy. I mean, are you pointing to what you see as the big problem in Washington everyone's just talking past each other and not actually getting down to the nitty gritty and figuring out some sort of real policy deal?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think part of the problem is that both sides are looking to placate their bases. And when you talk to your base, you're no longer in the business of persuasion. You're in the business of purity. And when you're speaking in that kind of language, you're basically saying the other side are a bunch of heretics and tribal enemies and all the rest. And it makes it very, very difficult to get anything done.

GREENE: Jonah Goldberg is senior editor at National Review. He gets a lot done when he comes in here and speaks to us. We appreciate it, Jonah. Thanks for being here.

GOLDBERG: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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