Back to work: Trump signs funding bill, ending shutdown
By ALAN FRAM, ANDREW TAYLOR and ZEKE MILLER
January 23, 2018 12:46 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump signed a bill reopening the government late Monday, ending a 69-hour display of partisan dysfunction after Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations. They relented in return for Republican assurances that the Senate will soon take up the plight of young immigrant "dreamers" and other contentious issues.
The vote set the stage for hundreds of thousands of federal workers to return on Tuesday, cutting short what could have become a messy and costly impasse. The House approved the measure shortly thereafter, and President Donald Trump later signed it behind closed doors at the White House.
But by relenting, the Democrats prompted a backlash from immigration activists and liberal base supporters who wanted them to fight longer and harder for legislation to protect from deportation the 700,000 or so younger immigrants who were brought to the country as children and now are here illegally.
Democrats climbed onboard after two days of negotiations that ended with new assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate would consider immigration proposals in the coming weeks. But there were deep divides in the Democratic caucus over strategy, as red-state lawmakers fighting for their survival broke with progressives looking to satisfy liberals' and immigrants' demands.
Under the agreement, Democrats provided enough votes to pass the stopgap spending measure keeping the government open until Feb. 8. In return, McConnell agreed to resume negotiations over the future of the dreamers, border security, military spending and other budget debates. If those talks don't yield a deal in the next three weeks, the Republican promised to allow the Senate to debate an immigration proposal -- even if it's one crafted by a bipartisan group and does not have the backing of the leadership and the White House, lawmakers said. McConnell had previously said he would bring a deal to a vote only if President Donald Trump supported it.
Sixty votes were needed to end the Democrats' filibuster, and the party's senators provided 33 of the 81 the measure got. Eighteen senators, including members of both parties, were opposed. Hours later the Senate passed the final bill by the same 81-18 vote, sending it to the House, which quickly voted its approval and sent the measure on to President Donald Trump.
Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, D-N.M., both voted for the deal. Here are statements from their offices:
Today I voted to reopen the government, paired with a commitment from Republicans to address a host of long-neglected priorities. We have forced the Senate to confront the crisis President Trump has created for Dreamers, and focused the government funding debate on providing year-long certainty for the Pentagon, Department of Energy and other important federal agencies. This legislation also extends the children's health insurance program and shields Americans from a tax on their health premiums.
This course correction has made clear that President Trump does not have a blank check when it comes to carrying out his destructive agenda – Americans are prepared to fight back.
The only path forward is one where both parties come to the table to solve real problems, and I will be fighting every step of the way to make that happen.
-- Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Today’s agreement between Senate Democratic and Republican leadership to re-open the government and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program buys Congress 17 more days to try to reach a bipartisan compromise for DREAMers. While it definitely isn’t a perfect deal, we must work together to make progress. The American people don’t support President Trump’s platform of hate and division – and Democrats will not accept a ‘take it or leave it’ offer on immigration that will further tear this country apart.
Additionally, while this agreement opens up a path forward for the DREAMers, I am still fighting to ensure we reach a responsible bipartisan budget agreement that funds our military and our domestic priorities for longer than a few weeks. As a Department of Defense spokeswoman stated last week, lurching from one short-term agreement to another is a disaster for the military. The 45,000 federal employees and contractors in New Mexico – who are working hard to keep our nation safe, be good stewards of our public land and water, and meet the needs of our citizens – deserve long-term certainty. Budgeting is Congress’ most basic job, and I will be working as hard as I can to get our government back on track.
-- Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
New Mexico's Democrat in the House -- Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan -- both voted against the bill. Republican Rep. Steve Pearce voted for it. The two Democrats provided statements to KOB on Monday; Pearce released one on Tuesday:
Continuing resolutions undermine our military readiness and national security programs, harm small businesses, create uncertainty in the economy, and damage government services that countless Americans depend on. It is four months into the fiscal year and the President has not signed one spending bill into law or even agreed to top-line budget numbers. I remain concerned that we are no closer to resolving these issues. This lack of action hurts New Mexicans as they wait for Congress to do its job. Unfortunately, they will have to continue to wait—Republicans have recessed Congress and are already leaving town.
I challenge Republican leadership to work with Democrats on enacting a balanced spending deal that strengthens our military and invests in our economy, funds community health centers, addresses the opioid epidemic, establishes a permanent legislative solution for 800,000 Dreamers, provides disaster assistance to Americans recovering from natural disasters, and safeguards the pensions of 10 million workers.
As we have seen, when the Freedom Caucus and a small, extreme part of the Republican Conference control the agenda, bi-partisan work on all of these issues gets sabotaged. If the Trump Administration and Republican leadership fail to govern responsibly again and submit to the wishes of Republican extremists, they will lead Congress right back into gridlock. The only path forward is to empower the bi-partisanship consensus that already exists to resolve issues which have lingered for over a year. That may be difficult for Republican leadership to do politically, but it is undoubtedly in the best interest of the American people.
-- Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.
What the Democrats did, playing politics with paychecks for service members and risking access to health care for rural, low-income children, to get their way on full amnesty for illegal immigrants is astounding and down-right irresponsible. We made considerable progress towards establishing a common-ground solution that provides certainty for DACA recipients leading up to the shutdown – and I’ll continue to work until we have a pragmatic solution that addresses immigration and the security of our nation.
Moving forward, the House delivered all 12 appropriations bills for a long-term budget ahead of schedule, yet the Senate has failed to act on them on time. We need to find a bipartisan solution that reforms the process in the Senate so Congress can fulfill their Constitutional responsibility of providing the national budget and put an end to the reckless practice of running from budget crisis to budget crisis.
-- Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.
After months of inaction, the Republican leadership has again presented the House with a my-way-or-the-highway bill that fails the basic test of governance.
Instead of realistically addressing and funding national priorities, this bill fails on many levels – especially when it comes to providing the certainty and stability that the American people deserve from their government.
Examples of key priorities that the bill fails to address are:
- funding for our troops and our veterans who are facing serious shortfalls at the VA;
- funding to communities to fight the opioid epidemic;
- disaster recovery funding for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, and states impacted by wildfires;
- support for community health centers, rural hospitals or needed diabetes funding;
- enacting a responsible reform plan to preserve Americans’ endangered pensions.
Four months ago in September, President Trump ended the DACA program creating the current crisis for DREAMers. And despite promises by the Trump administration, the bill does nothing concrete to protect DREAMers or to provide certainty for the 800,000 young people covered by the DACA program. Instead, the Republicans are offering us promises that they have not kept in the past.
The ineptitude of Republicans who control all the levers of power in Washington – the White House, the Senate and the House – is on full display with this bill. From Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Quay County Family Health Center, New Mexico relies on stability and certainty in federal funding to keep the lights on and programs operating for the people they serve. That stability and certainty was absent in this bill; New Mexicans deserve better.
-- Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders predicted that operations would return to normal by Tuesday morning.
The plan is far from what many activists and Democrats hoped when they decided to use the budget deadline as leverage. It doesn't tie the immigration vote to another piece of legislation, a tactic often used to build momentum. It also doesn't address support for an immigration plan in the House, where opposition to extending the protections for the dreamers is far stronger.
The short-term spending measure means both sides may wind up in a shutdown stalemate again in three weeks.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer lent his backing to the agreement during a speech on the chamber's floor. "Now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate," he said of legislation to halt any deportation efforts aimed at the younger immigrants.
The White House downplayed McConnell's commitment, and said Democrats caved under pressure. "They blinked," principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told CNN. In a statement, Trump said he's open to immigration deal only if it is "good for our country."
Immigration activists and other groups harshly criticized the deal reached by the Democratic leadership.
Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, said the members of the group are "outraged." She added that senators who voted Monday in favor of the deal "are not resisting Trump, they are enablers."
Other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment and shared similar criticism.
A block of liberal Democrats -- some of them 2020 presidential hopefuls -- stuck to their opposition. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey voted no, as did Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Feinstein said she wasn't persuaded by McConnell's assurances and did not know how a proposal to protect the more than 700,000 younger immigrants would fare in the House.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana voted no on the procedural motion to re-open the government - the only no vote among 10 incumbent Democrats facing re-election this year in states won by Trump in 2016. Tester said in a statement that the 17-day budget did not include any funding for community health centers that are important to his rural state, nor did the deal include additional resources for border security.
The short-term funding measure includes a six-year reauthorization of the children's health insurance program, which provides coverage for millions of young people in families with modest incomes. It also includes $31 billion in tax cuts, including a delay in implementing a tax on medical devices.
The votes came as most government offices cut back drastically or even closed on Monday, as the major effects of the shutdown were first being felt with the beginning of the workweek.
Republicans have appeared increasingly confident that Democrats would bear the brunt of criticism for the shutdown. The White House and GOP leaders said they would not negotiate with Democrats on immigration until the government was reopened, and White House officials boasted that Trump didn't reach out to any Democratic lawmakers during the shutdown.
In fact, Trump, who regularly disrupted negotiations in recent weeks, had been a relatively subdued player in the weekend debate. On Monday, he accused Democrats of prioritizing services and security for noncitizens over U.S. citizens. "Not good," his first tweet said. In a second tweet, he said, "Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don't want to do it but are powerless!"
Trump's first tweet appeared to undercut comments by his legislative affairs director, Marc Short, who told CNN that the immigrants in question are law-abiding and "productive to our society." Short said the administration wants to "find a pathway for them" to stay in the U.S.
Although the Democrats initially dug in on a demand for an immigration deal, they had shifted to blaming the shutdown on the incompetence of Republicans and Trump. The Democrats seemed sensitive to being seen by voters as willing to tie up government operations to protect immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
In an impassioned closed-door meeting, Schumer told his members that McConnell's pledge was the best deal they were going to get.
On the Senate floor, No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said that for shutting down the government, the Democrats "got nothing." He added that even though McConnell promised to take up the immigration bill by February, "he was going to do that anyway."
While lawmakers feuded, signs of the shutdown were evident at national parks and in some federal agencies. Social Security and most other safety-net programs were unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions continued, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Luis Alonso Lugo, Catherine Lucey, Matthew Daly and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
By ALAN FRAM, ANDREW TAYLOR and ZEKE MILLER
Updated: January 23, 2018 12:46 PM
Created: January 22, 2018 06:05 AM
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.