Senate votes to halt shutdown

DCNFJack Crowe, DCNF


The Senate passed a short-term spending bill Monday to fund the government for three weeks, halting the shutdown that began Friday at midnight.

The vote on the continuing resolution passed after Senate Democrats received assurances that the upper chamber would begin a floor debate on the fate of Dreamers prior to the next Feb. 8 shutdown deadline.

The bill, which ensures federal agencies won’t be forced to furlough thousands of government employees, will now move to the House before landing on President Donald Trump’s desk.

The vote was rescheduled from 1 a.m. Monday to noon after it became clear leadership lacked the 60 votes required to pass it.

Senators spent the weekend in bipartisan negotiations, as both sides struggled to reach a consensus on exactly what concessions they were willing to exchange for a short-term spending bill that would fund the government for three weeks.

Republican lawmakers attacked Democrats Sunday for rejecting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s most recent offer, accusing their liberal colleagues of holding the American people hostage to secure protections for Dreamers.

The most significant progress in negotiations was achieved by a bipartisan group of 20 moderate senators, which included a number of Democrats up for re-election in states that Trump won. The group, convened by GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, reached an agreement Sunday: McConnell agreed to commit to holding a floor debate on immigration in mid-February in exchange for Democratic support on the short term spending bill.

The more progressive Senate Democrats, committed to securing protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors as part of the spending bill, argued McConnell’s commitment to hold an immigration debate is insufficient because the promise carries no weight in the more conservative House, where freedom caucus members could block any attempt to bring an immigration bill to a vote.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal called McConnell’s commitment “clearly inadequate, an empty promise, a transparent ploy without any commitment to making dreamers legislation part of a must-pass bill,” in a Sunday interview with CNN.

Blumenthal suggested McConnell must commit to include immigration concessions in the spending bill if he hopes to woo Democrats and pass the legislation.

President Donald Trump, who has largely been absent from negotiations save for a few tweets, threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” Sunday morning — referencing a strategy by which Senate Republicans could rewrite budget rules to require a simple majority to pass a spending bill, rather than the 60 votes currently mandated. He joined the fray via Twitter again Monday morning, bashing Democrats for prioritizing illegal immigrants over Americans.

Democrats quickly returned the favor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claims he reached a tentative agreement with Trump Friday to provide border wall money in exchange for protections for Dreamers.

“I essentially agreed to give the president something he has said he wants, in exchange for something we both want,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The president must take yes for an answer. Until he does, it’s the Trump shutdown.”

Trump, who is known for his wildcard negotiating tactics, was reportedly been advised to avoid meeting with Schumer again for fear that he would concede too much ground to the experienced politician.

The shutdown, which went into effect Friday at midnight, had a limited impact over the weekend: trash remained uncollected in national parks and some government workers were forced to disconnect their government cell phones. Consequences would have mounted Monday morning as government agencies prepared to furlough thousands of workers and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) delayed preparations for the 2018 tax season.

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