Congress passes funding bill to reopen government

Congress passes funding bill to reopen government
UPI

Jan. 22 (UPI) — Congress passed a legislation to reopen the government Monday night but the 2 1/2-week spending agreement doesn’t resolve an immigration issue that led to the federal shutdown.

The House voted 266-150 in favor of the bill funding the government through Feb. 8, extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years and delaying three Obamacare taxes.

House members also agreed with a Senate resolution to pay federal workers through the shutdown.

Earlier Monday Democrats agreed to advance the measure and the chamber passed it with a procedural vote of 81-18. Republicans opposing the deal were Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

The measure will be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature after passing through Congress.

“I am pleased the Democrats and Congress have come to the senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said in a statement. “As I have always said, once the government is funded my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if and only if it is good for our country.”

Previously, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would vote to end the shutdown with the expectation that the Republican Party will abide by an agreement to address the issue of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has been a key sticking point in negotiations.

The deal is a short-term fix, funding the government through Feb. 8, with ongoing negotiations on immigration and federal spending.

One hour before a midnight deadline Friday, the Senate voted 50-49 in favor ending a filibuster on spending through Feb. 16 with 60 votes necessary to move the measure along. That spending bill and the one Monday includes funding for six years for Children’s Health Insurance Program, whose funding expired Friday.

“The process will be neutral and fair to all sides,” Schumer said. “We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor.

“The Republican majority has 17 days to prevent the Dreamers from being deported. Mr. President, we have a way to address the fate of the Dreamers, right now, instead of waiting until March.”

The DACA system, implemented under former President Barack Obama and repealed by Trump, expires March 5.

Although Democrats have been skeptical of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to the immigration cause, Schumer said he was “encouraged” by the Kentucky Republican’s promises in negotiations.

“I realize there’s a trust deficit up here generally, but I think one of the first steps to regaining that trust is for the leader to make that commitment and follow through on it,” Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, noting that McConnell’s pledge to Democrats is “all they’re gonna get.”

Schumer, who said earlier Monday there were 60 votes to reopen the government, has criticized the Republican Party and Trump for “sitting on the sidelines” during the shutdown and negotiations.

“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,” he said. “These days, you never know who to deal with when it comes to the Republicans.”

“My recent offer to the president was a generous one, I put his signature campaign issue on the table in exchange for DACA, but still, he turned away…the great dealmaking president sat on the sidelines.”

McConnell said Democrats caved after realizing the shutdown wasn’t politically wise.

“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.

Lawmakers in the Senate have been working since Friday, when government funding ran out, to produce a resolution dedicating more money to keeping federal offices and services open and running. Negotiations on Saturday and Sunday failed before a Monday vote was set to try again.

Democrats have been pushing for a fix for DACA, which protects roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, ever since Trump announced he would end the program without an adjustment to make it work in step with his tougher policy on illegal immigration.

Democrats stalled on a longer-term spending bill until a bipartisan agreement was reached for DACA recipients. Trump, who previously rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, made volatile comments this month about immigrants traveling to the United States from “shithole countries” — remarks that some say threw a wrench into negotiations on the issue.

A bipartisan group has been working on a spending bill and immigration.

“Today is the day to celebrate because we have shown that a determined group of senators working together across the aisle can result in positive action,” said Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.

“Today we’ve taken a significant step forward with more than 80 senators voting to reopen government and with a commitment from the Republican leader to bring an immigration bill to the floor with ample opportunity for those with differing views to offer up substitutes to a bill.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., was part of the bipartisan talks these past few days.

“I have increasing trust in the folks I’ve been working with in recent days and I trust that leader McConnell will keep his word,” Coons said, referring to assurances from McConnell regarding immigration talks.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are opposed to the deal, CNN reported.

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