Federal Government Shutdown Ends After Congress Breaks Logjam

By Abby Livingston, The Texas Tribune, 

WASHINGTON – The federal government shutdown ended Monday after the U.S. Senate and House passed a previously stalled funding measure.

The breakthrough came when the upper chamber voted on Monday afternoon to end debate on a three-week spending resolution, a procedural move that paved the way for the U.S. Senate and House to formally pass a spending bill later in the day that ended the shutdown and funded the government through Feb. 8.

President Donald Trump signed the legislation Monday night.

The vote came as members of Congress spent a rare weekend in Washington amid the first government shutdown in four years.

Prior to Monday, most Senate Democrats and a handful of their GOP colleagues refused to allow the 60-vote threshold needed to vote on the spending bill unless congressional leaders and President Donald Trump agreed to address the shaky legal status of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

But late Monday morning, many Senate Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting announcing they would back the resolution in an afternoon vote.

The emerging deal is rooted in trust and concessions amid party leaders going forward. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer took to the Senate floor to say that he and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had come to an arrangement that the chamber will take up the future of the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in February.

DACA beneficiaries and their supporters were predictably outraged after they said Democrats caved to the White House’s “extremist” agenda.

They pulled no punches, and went so far as to accuse Virginia Democrat and former vice-presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, of selling out.

“Many Democrats refused to take a stand and only did so after immigrant youth and allies held sit-ins and got arrested at their offices,” said Cristina Jimenez, the executive director and co-founder of United We Dream. “I heard Senator Tim Kaine brag about resisting Trump’s agenda at the Women’s March this weekend only to see him vote to enable it two days later. Senators who voted today for the promise of a symbolic vote on the Dream Act are not resisting Trump – they are enablers.”

The timing is key after the Trump administration announced it would end DACA in March. A federal judge in California has let the program stand for now, but the administration has already appealed. About 124,000 Texans are covered under DACA.

Though the federal government again began accepting renewal applications for the program last week as the case plays out, an appellate court – or even the United States Supreme Court – could out an end to that.

Before the ruling in California, it was estimated that more than 120 DACA beneficiaries were losing their protection and work permits every day.

The legislation will also extend six years’ worth of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Both of Texas’ Republican senators – John Cornyn and Ted Cruz – voted for the spending bill and on the earlier procedural hurdle. Cornyn, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, spent most of the weekend at the center of negotiations and served as a frequent spokesman for his Republican colleagues in his capacity as the GOP majority whip.

Cornyn later went to the White House with several other GOP senators to further discuss DACA with Trump.

Even so, some House Democrats were skeptical of the trajectory of events on the Senate side.

“Unless Speaker Ryan also agrees to allow a vote in the House, Mitch McConnell’s hopes and intentions are worthless,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, tweeted prior to Schumer’s speech.

The House vote fell largely along party lines, with Republicans voting for the resolution and Democrats against it. But there were exceptions in the Texas delegation.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen voted for the resolution.

A handful of members were absent: Republican U.S. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis and Kay Granger of Fort Worth, and Democratic U.S. Reps. Gene Green of Houston and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas.


This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/01/22/us-senate-breaks-logjam-moves-closer-ending-federal-shutdown/.

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