Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Six months and the future of DACA

Well, that was an interesting move by Trump.  He'll end DACA in six months rather than immediately, and say it's Congress's job to do something.  The old, impending deadline to force action scenario, right?

Let's take yet another trip down memory lane.  The year was 2011.  Republicans had just taken control of the House of Representatives, and were insisting that they wouldn't "raise the debt ceiling" without a "dollar-for-dollar" reduction in spending as part of the deal.  The problem was that they couldn't find enough dollars by which to reduce spending.  Why?  Most spending is either defense, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or bond payments.  Unless you are willing to cut one of those, significantly, you are kind of fucked if your goal is to reduce the deficit dramatically.

The "solution?"  (Note the sarcastic quote marks).  Congress passed, and Obama signed the 2011 Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling, and reduced spending, but also created the "supercommittee," whose job was to find a set of deficit-reduction measures to get the budget the rest of the way to that dollar-for-dollar deal.  Whatever deal the supercommittee worked out would be fast-tracked through the legislative process.

And...  what if... just what if that supercommittee failed to agree to more deficit reduction measures?  A set of automatic deficit reduction measures called, "sequestration," would go into effect.  The cuts under sequestration were intended to be as stupid as possible.  Half in domestic spending to piss off the Democrats, and half in military spending to piss off the Republicans.  It was a looming threat, to force Congress to come up with less stupid deficit reduction measures.

So... what happened?  You know what happened.  Exactly what everyone knew would happen at the time.  (Or at least, what smart people knew would happen at the time).  Democrats insisted that the deficit reduction measures couldn't be all spending cuts, and Republicans insisted on no tax increases, so the supercommittee didn't agree to anything, and sequestration went into effect.

Some of the sequestration cuts have been clawed back, but my basic point is that, when you give Congress a deadline and say, "act, or a bad thing will happen," unless it is total disaster, like a debt ceiling breach... they aren't going to act.  We know this.

Trump is telling Congress that he wants some legislation rather than executive action vaguely, kinda related to DACA in some unspecified way.  Yeah, bullshit, I know.  That's not my point today.  My point is that nothing will happen.  Nothing.  The House of Representatives operates on a principle that nothing opposed by a majority of the majority party receives a floor vote, unless following that rule leads to something like a debt ceiling breach, or some other disaster.  We call this "negative agenda control."  Sorry, I forgot to say, "buzzword alert."  Anyway, ending DACA doesn't create a nationwide economic disaster, whatever you think of it in ideological terms.  And, while there are real questions about what did happen to Eric Cantor when he lost a primary to David Brat, the fact that the story people tell is one of immigration reform means that Paul Ryan won't risk allowing a floor vote on anything.

Santayana was wrong.  Whether you study the history of the supercommittee or not, we are going to repeat it.


  1. Interesting to note that this happened today because Texas was threatening to sue if Trump didn't do something about DACA by....today.

    1. Let it never be said that Trump operates with a real plan...

    2. Related, Sessions making the announcement seems to mean one of two things:
      1) Trump is playing 3D chess, and is having Sessions do it so he can finally fire him, and appear to be not-racist.
      2) Trump is weak and got rolled by his own AG, who told him that he wouldn't defend DACA, even though he HAS been defending the Muslim bans with the argument of "presidents can do whatever the fuck they want on immigration."

    3. Or, 3) Trump is just being as cowardly about the announcement as he is about the policy itself.