Government shutdown ends as Senate promise delays DACA fate

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 307 views 

After a weekend of private negotiations, public insults, and occasional radio silence, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Washington, D.C., brought a short-lived government shutdown to a halt amid promises to move forward over the next three weeks.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate used their minority voting power to keep the upper chamber from reaching a 60-vote threshold as a handful of GOP Senators joined ranks to object to a deal with the Republican Senate majority. The result was a government shutdown that began on Saturday, but did not come close to affecting services until Monday morning.

On Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said they had an agreement for a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government operational for another three weeks until Feb. 8, while the two sides separately negotiate the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), also known as “dreamers.”

The conditions of the agreement will fund the federal government through Feb. 8, provide six years of funding for the Children Health Improvement Program (CHIP), and repeal taxes on medical devices and other tax provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

It also establishes a framework for Congressional leaders to discuss a solution to DACA, which President Donald Trump says will end without a legislative fix by March. DACA was established by former President Barack Obama through executive order to allow children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at an early age and now are of adult age to remain in America unless they had committed crimes.

The Senate approved the deal in a Monday afternoon vote by a 81-18 margin. The House of Representatives later approved the agreement by a 266-159 vote. Arkansas’ two Senators and four Congressmen, all Republicans, voted in favor of the measure. The bill was signed by President Trump on Monday evening.

Over the weekend, the fight stayed anchored in the U.S. Senate, not the House.

Democrats labeled the government shutdown as the #TrumpShutdown, blaming the President’s lack of leadership and commitment to positions or compromise for a breakdown in talks.

Republicans pinned the blame on Schumer, calling the government closure the #SchumerShutdown. They complained that Democrats were tying the DACA debate to the spending bill for the federal government, a move they said was hurting military funding and delaying a vote on health care for children.

In three weeks, the same debate could erupt again as the Feb. 8 deadline offers little time for Congressional leaders to develop a strategy on DACA and longer term budget issues that will require another bipartisan agreement in the Senate. House Republicans hold enough votes to pass legislation along partisan lines.

Arkansas’ federally elected officials shared their thoughts after the Monday breakthrough votes.

U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., who sits on the Senate Budget Committee: “I am pleased that we are moving forward. Passage of this bill means the government should be reopening very quickly after this completely unnecessary shutdown. There was no reason for Senator Schumer to withhold funding for military readiness, border security, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and more while demanding an immediate solution to the issue facing DACA recipients. Let’s return to working in good faith to address the issues facing the American people, including a legislative solution that provides comprehensive immigration reform while securing our border.”

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who sits on the Senate Budget Committee: “It’s good news for the American people that the federal government will soon reopen, but it should have never been closed in the first place. I commend Senator McConnell for taking a consistent line on the immigration debate. And I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on a deal that protects both DACA recipients and hard-working Arkansans.”

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock: “I’m glad to see Senate Minority Leader Schumer come to his senses and persuade his colleagues to provide the votes to fund our government including our military and health care for children. The 120,000 kids in Arkansas are thankful that during this flu season, they will be able to access the care they need through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Our men and women in uniform will again be paid for their service and they will have the tools they need to respond to the unprecedented national security threats across the nation and globe. The House has passed all of our spending bills through the committee process and approved them before our September 30, 2017 deadline. I urge the Senate to pass these measures, so we will not continue running our country on short-term continuing resolutions.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who chairs the House Budget Committee: “I’m pleased that this unnecessary shutdown has ended. Funding the government is among the most fundamental of our legislative duties. Making demands unrelated to funding and resulting in a shutdown is legislative malfeasance. We should now focus our efforts on resolving the many remaining challenges facing our country—and doing so in a constructive way.”