House-Passed Gov’t Funding Bill Fails In Senate Triggering Gov’t Shutdown

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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The Senate failed to pass a cloture vote on a House-passed continuing resolution late Friday evening, just before government funding levels were set to expire.

Democrats withheld their votes over a lack of an agreement on a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — the Obama-era initiative that extended temporary legal status to foreign nationals who illegally entered the country as minors — leaving GOP leadership short of the 60 votes needed to send the measure to the president’s desk.

Five Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — opted to join the majority of Republicans in voting for the measure.  GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah bucked leadership’s call to pass the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also voted down the measure due to procedural reasons.

While the vote remained open for just over two house, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle huddled on the Senate floor –with McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer briefly leaving to conduct negotiation’s privately in the cloakroom — attempting to strike an agreement, but failed to strike a deal ahead of their midnight deadline.

The House bill, which includes a six-year extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and delays a number of Obamacare taxes, would have provided funding at current levels through Feb. 16.

Despite being on the brink of the first government shutdown since 2013, lawmakers have already begun casting blame on the opposing party. Democrats argue congressional negotiators had ample time to strike a bipartisan immigration deal while Republicans allege Democrats are holding government funding hostage over immigration, stressing Democrats have no objection to any other aspects of the bill.

“What we have just witnessed on the floor was a cynical decision by Senate Democrats to shove aside millions of Americans for the sake of irresponsible, political games,” McConnell said after the vote.

President Donald Trump held a lengthy meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Friday in an attempt to sway the New York Democrat to permit his caucus to vote for the bill. While Schumer said “progress was made” the discussion failed to persuade him to whip members of his party in favor of the bill.

“There’s no one more to blame for the position we find ourselves than President Trump,”  Schumer said on the floor in the early hours of Saturday morning. “Instead of bringing us all together, he’s pulled us apart.”

Lawmakers are weighing a shorter-term spending bill, possibly a three-week stop-gap — to keep the government funded while negotiations continue on caps on defense spending and immigration.

“I’m afraid so we’re trying to figure out a way to, you know, meet the Democrats halfway. But the truth is nothing’s going to happen on the eight unless there is a caps deal,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn told reporters following the vote. “There’s going to be another C.R. and they’re not going to give us a caps deal until the DACA thing is resolved.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said Democrats are looking for a stop-gap measure that runs less than two weeks. Top Republicans, including Cornyn have dismissed the idea, saying Congress would likely have to pass an additional CR in coming weeks if they moved forward with the plan.

House members have been advised to keep their schedules flexible in the event the Senate strikes a deal.

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