Senate Passes Bill to End Government Shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives at the Capitol at the start of the third day of the government shutdown on Jan. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Reopening the government for at least the next three weeks, the Senate killed the shutdown Monday with the promise of an upcoming vote on key immigration issues.

Bringing a close to the government shutdown after just three days, the short-term spending bill adopted 81-18 at noon marks the fourth Congress has passed since the fiscal year began in October.

The Senate proposal, a slightly different version of the one that failed to pass Friday night, had gained momentum after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to consider allowing a floor debate on immigration issues next month regardless of President Donald Trump’s approval.

Democrats want an absolute guarantee that the final bill will include protections for young immigrants whose status in the country has been in jeopardy since the Trump administration terminated a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“It would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security, and related issues,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday before the vote, abbreviating the program’s name.

That promise was enough to garner the temporary support of Democrats. Sticky immigration problems have been at the center of the budget impasse. Republicans want border security issues addressed, and President Trump has been adamant that he wants $20 billion in funding to be appropriated for a border wall, a figure that many Democrats view as wasteful.

And while there is enough bipartisan support in the Senate for a measure to protect DACA recipients, it is far from certain that the more hard-line Republicans in the House would attach such a measure to a must-pass bill, which President Trump would have to sign.

Trump made no promises meanwhile in his official reaction to the vote.

“As I have always said, once the government is funded, my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration,” Trump said. “We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

While Democrats want a path to citizenship for participants in the DACA program, which is scheduled to sunset on March 5, House Republicans are more likely prefer giving them legal status without a path to citizenship, and want to slash legal immigration levels as well.

Finger-pointing over the impasse meanwhile has led the White House to coin the phrase “Schumer shutdown,” in honor of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from the president’s home state of New York.

In answer to the charge, Democrats have emphasized that Trump’s is the first shutdown to occur with one party controlling the White House and both houses of Congress.

Schumer said ahead of the vote that President Trump rejected a concession he made on border-wall funding in exchange for a DACA fix.

“My recent offer to the president was a generous one,” Schumer said on the Senate floor before the vote. “I put his signature campaign issue on the table, in exchange for DACA, and still he turned away.”

Schumer added: ”The Republican leaders told me to work out a deal with the White House. The White House said work it out with Republican leaders on the hill. Separately, President Trump turned away from not one, but two bipartisan compromises. Each would have averted this shutdown.”

Schumer said he had not spoken to the president since their Friday meeting, but that he and McConnell had come to an agreement.

“We will vote today to reopen the government to continue negotiating a global agreement with the commitment that if an agreement isn’t reached by February the 8th, the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA,” Schumer said as he announced Democrats would pass the short-term spending bill before the vote.

The measure that passed the Senate Monday included a six-year renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Congress let lapse more than 100 days ago.

“The bill before us does three things that every Democrat and Republican should be able to support,” McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “First, it ends the shutdown and restores full funding for the federal government through February the 8th. Second, it extends health insurance for 9 million vulnerable children. And third, it will enable Congress to resume serious bipartisan talks on the important issues facing our nation.”

After the vote, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, credited the “common-sense coalition” with breaking the Senate divide.

Created in the wake of the 2013 shutdown, this bipartisan group drew a meeting of 17 largely centrist senators Friday, said Collins. Another eight joined in Monday.

“What we shared in common was the determination to accomplish the goal of reopening government, convincing our leaders that there was a path forward that would also accommodate those of us who are concerned about the fate of the dreamers who live in this country, many of whom have known no other country as their home,” Collins said.

Manchin said bipartisan support for the military factored heavily into the deal.

Though he said behind-the-scenes negotiations have always been optimistic, Manchin voiced criticism of Senate rules, which he said bestow the majority and minority leaders with too much power.

Neither McConnell nor Schumer “should be in a position of that much power to be able to set an agenda or stop an agenda when you have a force as strong as ours moving in a direction,” Manchin said. “And I will tell you, they listened. And that’s what moved it because we weren’t backing off. We weren’t going to be beat into submission.”

Collins struck a softer tone, saying that every negotiation in her 21 years in the Senate has had peaks and valleys. But in the end, McConnell and Schumer listened and showed flexibility after starting out with more rigid positions, she said.

“Ultimately it was the decisions made by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer that brought us to this point,” Collins said. “But I believe that our group, by giving them specific ideas for how to move forward, and because of the size and bipartisan nature of our group, played a very instrumental role in breaking the impasse.”

%d bloggers like this: