Washington, D.C., USA: By an 81-18 vote, the U.S. Senate has advanced a 17-day government funding bill that will keep the government open through February 8th, a major step in ending the partial shutdown of the federal government, now in its third day. Though this was a procedural vote to allow the underlying bill to proceed, the outcome does clear the way for the federal government to reopen.
the House must pass the same measure for the government to reopen. The bill would also extend the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years.
The bill advanced with support from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who announced that he would vote to reopen the government along with enough Democrats to ensure it reaches the 60 votes needed to advance.
This development came after 24 hours of furious negotiation over plans to consider immigration legislation in the coming weeks, the Senate voted 81-18 to move forward with the continuing resolution, which would fund the government through Feb. 8.
In exchange for his support, Schumer said, he has received assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that if an agreement isn’t reached by then, the GOP leader will bring a vote to the floor on legislation to grant legal status to those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, roughly 700,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally after being brought here as children.
A group of about 20 senators met for several hours on Saturday and again on Sunday afternoon to hash out the plan that ultimately allowed both sides to back down from their increasingly entrenched positions and vote to reopen the government.
Representatives from those talks briefed leaders Sunday afternoon, but the suspense dragged out for nearly six hours before McConnell made his announcement.
McConnell says Democrats caved because they realized holding out for a DACA deal tied to the funding deal was not wise politically.
“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something that the American people didn’t understand,” McConnell said.
Schumer, however, argued that blame for the weekend-long stalemate lay at the president’s feet.
“The reason the Republican majority had such difficulty finding consensus is they could never get a firm grip on what the president of their party wanted to do. These days, you never know who to deal with when it comes to the Republicans,” Schumer said. “The Republican leaders told me to work out a deal with the White House. The White House said, work it out with Republican leaders on the Hill. Separately, President Trump turned away from not one, but two bipartisan compromises. Each would have avoided this shutdown.”
Democrats were trying to frame the deal as a temporary victory, though. Senate Minority Whip Durbin took the floor to call the DACA issue the “civil rights issue of our time” and underscore the importance of passing an immigration bill by the new deadline, which he said McConnell had assured them would be on a level playing field.
While many Senate Democrats had remained entrenched in their opposition to any funding deal that doesn’t include a DACA fix, a growing number of moderate lawmakers were wary of an extended shutdown fight. Most of the endangered Democrats who are up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won all voted to advance the measure, except for Montana Sen. Jon Tester.
Many Democrats worried that the Republican talking point that Democrats were siding with “illegal immigrants” over the military and government would resonate with voters as the stalemate extended into the workweek.
Trump has generally kept a low profile during the shutdown. He canceled a planned trip to Florida where he hoped to celebrate the first anniversary of his inauguration with a high-dollar fundraising party.
Aides say the president spent the weekend telephoning lawmakers and working with staff to minimize fallout from shuttered government operations.
“He is focused on managing the shutdown,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “That’s the biggest part of the process that he plays at this point. One is encouraging members to do the right thing and reopen our government. The other part is to manage the pieces. That’s his job as president of the United States.”