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On Trump's First Anniversary, Another First: Why This Shutdown Is Different

Jan 20, 2018
Originally published on January 20, 2018 7:24 pm
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In a minute, we're going to hear more about how the government shutdown is likely to affect people in other parts of the country. But first, we wanted to talk more about what's going on in the nation's capitol. So returning now to NPR congressional correspondent Sue Davis, who's been reporting on this all day. Sue, thank you so much for joining us.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: You're welcome.

MARTIN: So after Congress failed to pass a spending bill on Friday, the government went into what's called a partial shutdown. But we can see that lawmakers are reconvening on the Hill today. They seem to be huddling. Is there any progress being made?

DAVIS: There's a lot of talk, but there is not much progress just yet. Today's really been about recriminations. Republicans and the White House are really dug in against Senate Democrats, who they say shut down the government. And Democrats, in turn, are feeling rather emboldened right now. They're not really willing to give up their votes to reopen the government until they get a concession from the president and from Republicans that they're ready to cut a deal on immigration.

MARTIN: We've been through shutdowns before. Why is this one different?

DAVIS: You know, for one thing, the disagreement here isn't really about the legislation at hand. Democrats support keeping the government open, the stopgap measure. And they like the health care provisions that are in there, including the six-year renewal of that popular health Children's Health Insurance Program. They're really using their votes as leverage to extract a deal on something else that's not in the actual legislation. And we don't know if that gambit will be successful yet or not.

MARTIN: The last time this happened, the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. You know, the presidency was still in the hands of the Democrats. According to the polling, most people blamed the Republicans for the shutdown, but they did well in the 2014 midterms anyway. So is there any lesson here about who the voters ultimately hold responsible for shutting down the government? And I'm particularly interested in what lessons the lawmakers are drawing from past history.

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, there's reason to be skeptical that shutting down the government will have an impact on the party that's seen as doing it. As you said, in the 2013 shutdown, that was seen as being led by Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas. And the following election, the midterm year, Republicans won big. I still think one of the biggest factors in these election climates is the president's approval rating. And right now, President Trump, his approval ratings are about 38 percent. That's the lowest point of any president at this stage of this presidency.

And I think this is really important context because President if Trump's approval rating right now is 58 percent, Democrats probably wouldn't be feeling as emboldened as they are to have this confrontation with him. And I also think, you know, across the board, there's this recognition that, right now, the news cycle and the pace of the news happens so fast that if they resolve this shutdown in a few days, is it really still going to be a motivating force come November?

MARTIN: That's NPR congressional correspondent Sue Davis. Sue, thanks so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.