Government shutdown fizzles on spending, immigration deal in US Congress
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congress voted on Monday to end a three-day US government shutdown, approving the latest short-term funding bill as Democrats accepted promises from Republicans for a broad debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.
The fourth temporary funding bill since October easily passed the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Donald Trump later in the evening signed the measure, largely a product of negotiations among Senate leaders.
Enactment by Trump of the bill allowed the government to reopen fully on Tuesday and keep the lights on through Feb. 8, when the Republican-led Congress will have to revisit budget and immigration policy, two disparate issues that have become closely linked.
The House approved the funding bill by a vote of 266-150 just hours after it passed the Senate by a vote of 81-18.
Trump’s attempts to negotiate an end to the shutdown with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer collapsed on Friday in recriminations and fingerpointing. The Republican president took a new swipe at Democrats as he celebrated the Senate’s pact.
“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” Trump said in a statement. “We will make a long term deal on immigration if and only if it’s good for the country.”
Immigration and the budget are entangled because of Congress’ failure to approve a full-scale budget on time by Oct. 1, 2017, just weeks after Trump summarily ordered an end by March to Obama-era legal protections for young immigrants known as the “Dreamers.”
The budget failure has necessitated passage by Congress of a series of temporary funding measures, giving Democrats leverage each step of the way since they hold votes needed to overcome a 60-vote threshold in the Senate for most legislation.
With government spending authority about to expire again at midnight on Friday, Democrats withheld support for a fourth stopgap spending bill and demanded action for the Dreamers.
The roughly 700,000 young people were brought to the United States illegally as children, mainly from Mexico and Central America. They mostly grew up in the United States.
Former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programme gave the Dreamers legal protections and shielded them from deportation.
Democrats, as a condition of supporting a new spending stopgap, demanded a resolution of the uncertain future Trump created for the Dreamers with his DACA order last year.
But Democratic leaders, worried about being blamed for the disruptive shutdown that resulted, relented in the end and accepted a pledge by Republicans to hold a debate later over the fate of the Dreamers and related immigration issues.
Tens of thousands of federal workers had begun closing down operations for lack of funding on Monday, the first weekday since the shutdown, but essential services such as security and defence operations had continued.
The shutdown undercut Trump’s self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington. It forced him to cancel a weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The US government cannot fully operate without funding bills that are voted in Congress regularly. Washington has been hampered by frequent threats of a shutdown in recent years as the two parties fight over spending, immigration and other issues. The last US government shutdown was in 2013.
Both sides in Washington had tried to blame each other for the shutdown. The White House on Saturday refused to negotiate on immigration issues until the government reopened.
On Monday, Trump met separately at the White House with Republican senators who have taken a harder line on immigration and with moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Doug Jones.
Reuters/Ipsos polling data released on Monday showed Americans deeply conflicted about the immigration issue, although majorities in both parties supported the DACA programme.
‘WHY DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?’
Some liberal groups were infuriated by the decision to reopen the government.
“Today’s cave by Senate Democrats – led by weak-kneed, right-of-centre Democrats – is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Markets have absorbed the shutdown drama over the past week.
US stocks advanced on Monday as each of Wall Street’s main indexes touched a record intraday level after the shutdown deal.
For Jovan Rodriguez of Brooklyn, New York, a Dreamer whose family came from Mexico when he was 3 years old and ultimately settled in Texas, the latest development was more of the same.
”Why do we have to wait – again? It’s like our lives are suspended in limbo,“ he said. And they have been for months. I don’t trust the Republicans and I don’t trust (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell with just a promise. That’s not good enough any more.”