Senate Passes Bill To End 2nd U.S. Government Shutdown

by Samuel Abasi Posted on February 9th, 2018

Washington, D.C., USA: In a 71-28 vote, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill to end the second government shutdown of 2018 less than two hours after it began. The House is expected to vote on the measure later Friday morning.

The deal includes a two-year increase in the budget caps, raises the debt ceiling until March 2019 and provides more than $89 billion in relief for a spate of recent hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

The bill also includes a stopgap measure that, if it passes the House, would allow the government to quickly reopen and be funded through March 23.

UPDATE: The House later approved a sweeping budget deal early Friday morning that would fund the government through March 23, sending legislation to President Trump that would end a brief shutdown of the government that began at midnight.

The bill passed in a 240-186 vote despite opposition from most Democrats, who had sought a firmer commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that he will bring immigration legislation to the floor for a vote that would protect immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation.

House Democrats just barely made up for the defections on the GOP side. A total of 73 Democrats voted for the legislation, while 67 Republicans voted against it.

EARLIER : U.S. Government Shuts Down Again – The second US government shutdown of 2018 began at midnight, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up congressional vote on crucial spending bill over deficit hikes. The two-year budget agreement includes an extension of federal funding.

Paul argued that his GOP colleagues are being hypocritical by pushing this bill after decrying deficit hikes under the Obama administration.

“Republicans howled to high heaven that President Obama was sending us into the gutter, spending us into oblivion and now Republicans are doing the same thing,” he said.

Paul lambasted the two-year budget agreement, which would increase the budget caps by roughly $300 billion and also raise the debt ceiling through March 2019, among many other provisions.

He said that none of his colleagues have been able to fully read the nearly 700-page budget bill, which was filed shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

“I have been asking all day. I have been asking all week for it. We could have literally had dozens of votes today. But we squabble because people don’t want to be put on the spot,” he said about his push to get an amendment vote.

The Senate is still expected to pass the bill early Friday morning and send it to the House, so the shutdown may only last a few hours.

Under Senate rules, the earliest the chamber could take its first vote on the agreement was 1 a.m. Friday, after the funding deadline, unless every senator agreed to move it up.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had directed federal agencies to prepare for a lapse in funding.

Both the Senate and House had been working Thursday to pass the two-year budget deal to prevent the shutdown, the second in less than a month.

But Paul demanded a vote on an amendment to keep budget caps in place and refused to allow a procedural vote until he got it. Senate Republicans tried up until the midnight deadline to begin voting on the bill, but Paul would not relent. The Senate recessed after 11 p.m. without taking action.

“What you’re seeing is recklessness trying to be passed off as bipartisanship. …[Leadership is] holding hands, and there’s only one bad guy standing in the way. One guy that’s going to keep up here until three in the morning,” Paul said during a more than hourlong floor speech.

The budget package is expected to sail relatively smoothly through the Senate, when it comes up for a vote. The bill could have a more difficult path in the House, where opposition from fiscal conservatives and House Democrats could threaten passage.

The House won’t hold a vote on the funding measure until it is approved by the Senate. A whip update sent out Thursday evening by Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) office said members should “prepare for late night or early morning votes.”

EARLIER: Shutdown Over Until February 9 As Trump Signs Congress Stopgap Bill – The U.S. government shutdown is over until February 9th as President Trump has signed off on a short-term bill to reopen the government and keep it open for 17 days through February 8. In a 266-150 vote on Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate, which earlier in the day approved a stopgap spending bill that would allow the government to reopen and stay open through February 8th, following three days of a shutdown. President Donald Trump was expected to assent to the bill the measure after welcoming the Senate’s vote earlier today.

The government shut down after Congress failed to meet a Friday deadline for extending federal spending. Democrats insisted that a spending deal include legal protection for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, something the White House suggested was misguided.

Senate Democrats agreed to continued funding with the guarantee that they would continue negotiating a broader DACA deal on immigration.

“After several discussions, offers and counteroffers, the Republican leader and I have come to an arrangement. We will vote today to reopen the government to continue negotiating a global agreement,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said before Monday’s vote in his chamber.

In response to the Senate’s passage, Trump said he was “pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses.”

“As I’ve always said, once the government is funded, my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair, illegal immigration,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.

But on Sunday, Schumer argued that Trump pitted kids against each other when he decided to include Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding in a spending bill, but not money for immigrants who came to the United States as undocumented children.

“They were using the 10 million kids on CHIP. Holding them as hostage for the 800,000 kids who are Dreamers. Kids against kids. Innocent kids against innocent kids. That’s no way to operate in this country,” Schumer said.

EARLIER : Senate Advances Funding Bill To Reopen U.S. Govt Through Feb 8 – 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.”

EARLIER: U.S. Government Shutdown Goes Into Effect – U.S. government shutdown went into effect shortly after midnight (as funding ran out), after the Senate defeated a House-passed stopgap spending measure with neither party giving significant ground on the issue that triggered the stalemate – how to replace the Obama-era program that allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children to work and go to school here. The last shutdown was in 2013 and lasted 17 days.

Senator Chuck Schumer blamed Trump for walking away from a deal on immigration during a meeting at the White House Friday afternoon, even though Schumer said he was willing to discuss the president’s top priority: the border wall.

“He walked away from two bipartisan deals, including one today in which I even put the border wall on the table. What will it take for President Trump to say yes and learn how to execute the rudiments of government?” Schumer said.

In the hours leading up to the shutdown, Democrats were still jockeying to get a DACA fix attached to the spending bill, according to multiple senators. Intertwining the two issues has been a non-starter for GOP leadership on both ends of the Capitol.

But Democrats wanted an insurance policy in case the bipartisan DACA legislation that McConnell promised to put on the Senate floor went nowhere in the House.

“They had concerns about if they pass a bill out of the Senate, will it be heard in the House,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn). “They would like for [DACA] to be attached to a must-pass piece of legislation.”

McConnell did not respond directly to Schumer’s call for a summit meeting, but said the Senate will reconvene at noon and that votes would be likely later in the day.

“It’s my hope that an agreement can be reached. We’ll be here in session tomorrow working to finally resolve the way forward,” he said.

House lawmakers were told that they should expect to reconvene at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

If the talks stretch into the weekend, the logistics will become more complicated as the House is scheduled to be on recess next week.

Republicans have insisted that Democrats agree to expanded authorities for border patrol agents along with construction of the wall, something Democrats have balked at so far.

Each federal agency has a shutdown plan, written in consultation with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the administration would have some wiggle room in what it does.

In spite of the shutdown, many major federal responsibilities, like sending Social Security checks and operating the military, would continue.

In general, government operations and employees deemed “essential,” would continue to report to work. It’s a label that applies to more than half of the 2.1 million or so non-postal federal employees. These include, but not limited to, food inspections, federal law enforcement, airport security checks, social Security, other federal benefit programs and military operations.

Those workers would still get paid, but not until after the shutdown ends.

During the 2013 shutdown, 850,000 individuals were furloughed per day, according to the OMB.

Employees in “non-essential” government functions, meanwhile, would stay home and actually be prohibited from showing up. Congress acted to pay those employees after previous shutdowns, but pay is not guaranteed.

Some government programs, such as Social Security payments, are not subject to the appropriations process. Those would continue, though some functions, like processing new Social Security applications, would shut down.

Health and Human Services HHS would have to put about half of its 82,000 staff on furlough.

Larger programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and disability insurance would be largely unaffected by a government shutdown, and current beneficiaries would continue to receive their benefits.

But processing new applications for these programs could slow because there would be fewer employees around to do them.

The National Institutes of Health would continue patient care for current cancer patients but would not admit new patients or accept new grant proposals.

“Visitors who come to our nation’s capital will find war memorials and open air parks open to the public. Nationally, many of our national parks, refuges and other public lands will still allow limited access wherever possible.” Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement.

The government shutdown is not expected to delay flights or have an impact on the airline industry. Air traffic control, which is run by the Federal Aviation Administration, would still operate, while most of the agency’s aviation safety inspectors would keep working.

The FDA may have to cancel the majority of its food safety, nutrition and cosmetics activities, including routine food safety inspections. The CDC, meanwhile, would be unable to support its annual seasonal flu program during one of the most severe flu outbreaks in recent history and could stop tracking disease outbreaks.

The National Institutes of Health would continue patient care for current cancer patients but would not admit new patients or accept new grant proposals.

Military personnel are expected to show up to work during a shutdown, though they are not paid until the shutdown ends.

In 2013, passport offices, which are funded by fee revenue, remained open.

A large percentage of the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, workforce is expected to stop working during a shutdown, though the upcoming filing season may mean that more employees are still working than otherwise would be the case.

The IRS’s document for non-filing season shutdowns states that only about 13 percent of employees would continue working. While the 2018 filing season officially opens on Jan. 29, the document describes the filing season period as Jan. 1 through April 30.

The document notes that “historically, more exempted employees are required during the filing season to ensure activities related to executing the filing season are worked.”

IRS activities that continue during the filing season include testing of filing-season programs, processing of paper tax returns and design and printing of tax year forms. According to the OMB, the 2013 shutdown delayed almost $4 billion in tax refunds.

The Federal Reserve system, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are all independently funded and would continue their oversight of the banking system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Credit Union Administration are also independently funded and would stay open during the situation.

The Federal Communications Commission, FCC, would cease some operations, including issuing new broadcast licenses and processing equipment certifications for new electronic devices.

The Supreme Court would not only remain open to visitors but carry on with business as usual in the event of a shutdown.

Federal district, appeals and bankruptcy courts across the country will also remain open, relying on court fees and appropriations that aren’t tied to a specific year.

While government shutdowns are familiar to most Americans, they are a relatively recent development. They are the result of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Since then, Congress has failed to authorize funding for the federal government on 18 separate occasions. The first six of those didn’t actually affect the functioning of government at all. It wasn’t until a set of opinions issued by Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in 1980 and ’81 that the government started treating “funding gaps”— periods when Congress has failed to allocate funds for the ongoing functions of government — as necessitating the full or partial shutdown of government agencies.

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