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Rahm on ending federal shutdown: ‘Chisel away at the will of the Republicans’

Eighty-six city of Chicago workers made more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $216,210 pay in 2017 — 50 more workers than a year earlier, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found

Eighty-six city of Chicago workers made more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $216,210 pay in 2017 — 50 more workers than a year earlier, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

WASHINGTON – In an appearance that served as an audition for a post-mayoral role as a commentator on national politics, Rahm Emanuel on Sunday said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats need to “chisel away” at  Republicans on multiple fronts to end the partial federal government shutdown over funding for President Trump’s border wall.

“What I would do if I was Speaker Pelosi is not allow the negotiations to be the only arena,” Emanuel said.

With three GOP senators already calling for an end to the shutdown Emanuel added, “I would make sure every day you were passing that same bill and just chisel away at the will of the Republicans.”

Emanuel also said the public will not engage on the shutdown until it impacts more than 800,000 federal workers, offering as an example the outcry that would happen if unpaid TSA staffers stop reporting for duty at airports.

Emanuel flew to New York to appear not as a principle newsmaker on a Sunday show – but as one of four on a panel on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” analyzing the shutdown and the state of the 2020 presidential contest. Stephanopoulos and Emanuel are friends, going back to when they were staffers on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

I have heard that among his options, Emanuel is testing the waters for a TV contract after stepping down as mayor of Chicago in May. His brother, Ari, is a Hollywood agent, the CEO of the Endeavor agency.

Pelosi became the first female speaker after Emanuel, then a congressman and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – the House Democratic political operation – engineered the Democratic takeover of the House in the 2006 mid-term elections.

Pelosi took the gavel for the second time on Thursday and has been, with other congressional leaders, in negotiation sessions with Trump. The shutdown started Dec. 22, when the Republicans still controlled the House.

Pelosi is already taking action on multiple fronts, not depending on the talks alone, diluting the impact of Emanuel’s advice on Sunday.

On Saturday, Pelosi announced that House Democrats this week will offer a series of bills to reopen the government piecemeal with legislation designed to limit the pain Americans could feel from the shutdown.

That’s taking a page from a GOP playbook in 2013 when there was a partial government shutdown during the Obama presidency. Piecemeal measures the GOP offered back then peeled off vulnerable House Democrats who wanted to inoculate themselves from charges they did nothing while people suffered during the shutdown.

On Thursday night, Democrats in the House passed legislation to reopen government, minus funding for the wall on the southern border Trump is demanding, the one he promised Mexico would pay for.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to call the House measure because Trump said he would veto the legislation. But there are cracks in GOP Senate unity, with three senators up for re-election in 2020 – Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine – saying Congress needs to reopen government.

Indeed, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said because the three GOP senators “don’t like this approach of shutting down the government,” they may join a “bipartisan effort to end it.”

Emanuel said at some “point of pressure,” perhaps if unpaid TSA workers stop reporting for duty, “this becomes relevant to the American people – it’s no longer just 800,000 (federal) workers.” That could force “everybody to focus” and cut a deal.

In the meantime, the mayor said, “my advice to the speaker and the Democrats, do not allow the negotiations to be the only arena. Pass the same bill in Congress, (and) pass it over to the Senate.”

“I would keep coming at them like a wave that just keeps forcing it, and then the base for the president that he’s relying on, that wall, which is the Senate Republicans, starts to weaken.”

House Democrats this week will take up bills to fund agencies related to the Department of the Treasury, to make sure IRS refunds are not delayed, plus other bills handling appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Environment and Transportation.