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Republicans crow, Democrats squabble as game of chicken over shutdown ends, for now
Enough Senate Democrats blinked Monday and voted with majority Republicans to fund the federal government for three more weeks — bringing an end to a three-day government shutdown — after receiving a commitment to vote on immigration legislation by early February, leading GOP lawmakers to declare grudging victory as divided Democrats endured stinging criticism from immigrant-rights supporters and other elements of the party’s base.
Both Colorado’s senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, voted in favor of a temporary spending bill, which passed 81-18, extending the government’s authority to keep the doors open until Feb. 8 and allowing furloughed federal employees to return to work Tuesday. The House vote was 266-150, with Democrat Ed Perlmutter joining the Republican members of the delegation voting for the resolution and U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis voting with 142 other Democrats to oppose it.
The legislation approved Monday also included a six-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, but didn’t address the fate of “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States as children, an omission Democrats had objected to when they voted to allow the shutdown to go into effect after midnight Friday.
“This government shutdown forced by Senate Democrats was dangerous and unnecessary,” said Gardner, who was part of a bipartisan group of 30 senators who brokered the deal to restart federal spending.
“The bill we passed is the same bill Republicans initially proposed – including the longest reauthorization of CHIP in history – with one simple change: we are now funding the government through February 8th rather than February 16th. I wanted a bipartisan solution. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fix many other remaining issues before us including DACA and to restore responsibility in Congress.”
On the eve of the shutdown, Gardner and Bennet urged colleagues to take up a bipartisan immigration package they’d crafted with four other senators — the Gang of Six — that included protection for Dreamers as well as increased border security and funding for a border wall with Mexico demanded by President Donald Trump. According to the agreement announced Monday, senators will begin considering that legislation with a promise from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that bill or something like it will come up for a vote before Feb. 8.
Bennet gave Monday’s resolution mixed reviews.
“The Senate just passed the fourth temporary budget extension of this fiscal year. This is an unacceptable and disgraceful way to run our federal government. But continuing the government shutdown would have been worse,” he said in a statement. “We now need to ensure fair consideration of our Gang of Six proposal. Over the next three weeks, our focus should be on building support for this legislation so that it has the 60 votes required to pass the Senate.”
Skeptics pointed out that McConnell has reneged on recent deals he’s made with Republican senators, including Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Maine’s Susan Collins, who were both promised votes that haven’t materialized in exchange for their support of the massive tax legislation passed just before the end of the year.
When the temporary spending bill returned to the House for approval late Monday, most Democrats weren’t buying what McConnell was selling — particularly because Speaker Paul Ryan hadn’t made an analogous commitment in the House.
“I will fight for a responsible funding bill to keep government open through the end of the year. Just as I opposed the last two short-term funding bills, I proudly oppose this one,” Polis said in a statement. “These short-term funding bills are irresponsible and make government less efficient, hurt our military preparedness, and harm vulnerable Americans. Keeping government open three or four days while negotiations are finalized is something I would support, but I can’t condone kicking the can down the road with no meaningful progress or end in sight and with Congress leaving town. I will continue to demand that Congress does its job and passes legislation to address the Trump-imposed crisis for dreamers and others devastated by our immoral and out of touch immigration system. When we operate under the certainty of our moral convictions, we never give up, and we will not fail.”
DeGette made a similar point, ripping the Republican-controlled Congress for failing to pass an annual budget.
“While I’m never in favor of shutting down the government, the majority has got to stop limping along with these irresponsible bills,” she said in a statement, calling it “political malpractice” that Congress was operating on its fourth temporary spending measure since Oct. 1.
“The bill also does not include a provision extending protections for people in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, additional funding to fight the opioid epidemic, an extension of lapsed federal support for community health centers, or disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among many other critical funding needs,” DeGette continued. “It is encouraging that Senate Republican leadership has pledged to consider bipartisan legislation on DACA. Americans must hold Congress to this promise. We have to provide lasting protection and a path to citizenship for the nearly 800,000 Dreamers in this country, and turn our energies in earnest to bipartisan efforts to fix our broken immigration system.”
Perlmutter pointed to the Senate Republican leader’s vow.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made commitments to work with Democrats to address the many pressing issues we face,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “The Republican majority passed a giant tax cut for their wealthy donors in a matter of days. They’ve had more than a year to pass a sensible budget. We have much to get done and if they can’t govern responsibly, they have no business being in charge.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, called the impasse over immigration provisions “a manufactured crisis” and urged lawmakers to roll up their sleeves during the time before the resolution approved Monday runs out.
“Now that Senate Democrats have joined Republicans in funding our troops, providing CHIP coverage to millions of children and agreed on reopening our government, it’s time to get to work,” Coffman said in a statement. “I hope a lesson was learned in that bringing government to a halt, over a manufactured crisis, was unnecessary and counterproductive. Let’s get back to delivering for the American people and find a permanent solution to DACA.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican, cheered the agreement while jeering the Democrats.
“While I’m glad a deal has been agreed to, I want to reiterate the fact that this government shutdown was irresponsible. Causing military families uncertainty over whether they would receive their paychecks on time and making many families worry if their children would have access to healthcare was unnecessary,” Tipton said in a statement. “It should be noted that many of those who are now voting to reopen the government voted for essentially the exact same things today that they opposed just last week. This remarkable change of heart is no doubt the result of watching their political stunt fail miserably, and earning the rightful indignation of the American people.
Calling himself “relieved” the shutdown had ended, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, nonetheless added he was “extraordinarily frustrated and disappointed” at the ordeal he pinned on Democrats.
“With today’s vote, I’m relieved that national defense funding, to include pay and benefits for our military members — as well as all federal employees — has been restored. I’m also relieved that other crucial programs are now funded. At the same time, I’m extraordinarily frustrated and disappointed — and no more so than the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lives were needlessly stressed and inconvenienced in countless ways. This shutdown was an absolute failure of government perpetrated on the American people by the Democrats. The costs to the taxpayer as we dig out of this mess across the nation will be in the many millions of dollars. This is a blot on our government that Democrat leadership now owns. Additionally, the reality is clear: this same gamesmanship resulted in merely two-weeks funding of our government. Along with fellow Republicans, I remain hopeful to pass a true annual spending bill in the weeks ahead,” Lamborn said in a statement.
Back in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper — a persistent voice calling on Congress to come up with a fix for DACA recipients — cheered the inclusion of long-term CHIP funding in the legislation but withheld judgment on the rest of the deal.
“It is good news that CHIP is now fully funded,” he said in a statement. “We hope and expect that DACA families will, at the least, be granted deferred action in the coming weeks, and be able to achieve some piece of mind. And a longer-term budget solution wouldn’t hurt either.”
The executive director of ProgressNow Colorado took a shot at Gardner and Coffman, blaming the Republicans for stringing along Dreamers — both are sponsors and advocates of versions of legislation to protect DACA recipients known as the DREAM Act — and putting them on notice if the latest promise is broken.
“If there is a vote on DACA before February 8th, it will be no thanks to Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, and their many broken promises to Dreamers in Colorado,” said Ian Silverii in a statement. “If they fail to have a vote by February 8th, Coloradans will know who is responsible, and Coffman and Gardner will be held accountable.”
Calling the deal “morally reprehensible and political malpractice,” a founder of the national progressive group Indivisible tore into Senate Democrats for giving in to pressure in exchange for a promise that’s been kicked down the road a few times already.
“It’s Senator Schumer’s job to keep his caucus together and fight for progressive values. He failed in that today,” said Ezra Levin, co-executive director of the Indivisible Project, in a statement.
“Republicans have consistently negotiated in bad faith, demonstrating that they have no interest in actually protecting Dreamers. And for months, Democratic leadership has reassured Dreamers that Democrats would use all their leverage to get the Dream Act done. They caved in early September, but promised to use their leverage in early December. They caved in early December, but promised to use their leverage by the end of the year. They caved at the end of the year, but they promised to use their leverage in January. And now they caved again, but promised to use their leverage in February. Democrats clearly want to keep Dreamers as a talking point, but they need to grow a spine and actually fight for the Dream Act.”
The local Indivisible Front Range Resistance group echoed Levin’s statement while members visited Bennet’s office to communicate their “deep frustration” with his vote.
“His ‘yes’ vote is disappointing & demoralizing, and we will hold him accountable for it,” the group wrote in a Facebook post.
Mi Familia Vota, an organization devoted to organizing Latino voters, said it would hold a candlelight vigil for Dreamers Tuesday evening on the Auraria campus in Denver.Content originally published by Colorado Politics on January 23, 2018.