Congress passes funding bill, ends three-day government shutdown
The Senate has advanced a bill reopening federal agencies through Feb. 8 after Democrats relented and lifted their blockade against the legislation. (Jan. 22) AP
WASHINGTON — The House Monday night followed the Senate in passing a bill that paves the way for an end to the partial federal government shutdown, which began midnight Friday amid an impasse in the Senate over federal funding.
The bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8 was approved on a vote of 266-150. The bill now heads to President Trump's desk.
The majority of Senate Democrats who had voted against the measure last week, joined Republicans Monday after a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work toward a bipartisan compromise on immigration, border security, and a broader budget outline before that new deadline. The final vote was 81-18.
"So long as the government remains open, it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues as well as disaster relief, defense funding, health care and other important matters," the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor. DACA refers to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides legal status and work permits to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Trump announced in September he would revoke those protections. Democrats have been pushing a bipartisan compromise that would create a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants, known as "DREAMers."
McConnell's commitment on DACA was enough to win over Senate Democrats who blocked a previous spending bill on Friday, triggering the shutdown.
"In a few hours, the government will reopen," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said ahead of the vote. “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 Feb. 8, the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA.”
The Democratic leader said McConnell has assured him the immigration debate would be “fair and neutral” to both parties. “We expect that a bipartisan deal on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor,” Schumer said.
“This is the first time in history that under Republican control that we’re going to take up this issue on the floor," Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat, told reporters. "There’s no way Leader McConnell would have done this had we not stood firm.”
The proposal to reopen government first and then negotiate other issues was similar to an offer Republicans made Sunday evening. But Democrats Monday said McConnell's language was stronger. Before the shutdown, McConnell said he would only call up an immigration bill if he knew Trump would sign it, and the White House has sent conflicting signals on what the president would accept.
Michigan Democrat Gary Peters told reporters that it wasn't just McConnell's promise that won over Democrats. It was also the commitment from his Republican colleagues.
"There’s assurances from Republicans that they want to see this bill come forward and be debated," Peters said, adding that the details of what an immigration bill should include are still be worked out. "There is a good faith belief that this is an issue we need to address and we should address it in a bipartisan way.”
Sixteen Democrats and two Republicans voted against the measure.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a progressive lawmaker from California who voted no, told reporters that she didn't think McConnell's promise was enough.
"I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever and I think it would be foolhardy to believe he made a commitment," Harris said.
Even though the House had passed a similar bill last week, members were required to vote again because the Senate bill funds the government through Feb. 8, a week less than the earlier spending bill the House approved.
The government has been running on a series of short-term budget bills since Oct. 1 because Congress has been unable to agree on a year-long spending package.
The Senate bill also includes a key Democratic priority: a six-year extension of a children's health insurance program.
A government shutdown could have an impact on everything from your passport application to those beloved Panda cams. USA TODAY
Monday's resolution came as the government shutdown entered its third day and threatened to have a greater impact on the public — with hundreds of thousands of government employees expected to be furloughed and federal services potentially jeopardized.
Key to ending the stalemate: a bipartisan group of more than 20 centrist lawmakers who met behind closed doors over the weekend to hash-out a compromise they could pitch to Senate leaders.
"We started out with about 17 senators attending the first meeting in our office and the number grew ultimately to 25 senators," said Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine. "We have shown that a determined group of senators working together across the aisle can result in positive action."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said Collins' office became "our little Switzerland," where lawmakers could talk with each other "and not at each other."