The U.S. Senate advanced a stop-gap funding bill on Monday that paves the way to reopen the federal government three days into a partial shutdown that was triggered in part by a partisan brawl over immigration.
Thirty-three Democrats joined 48 Republicans to end debate in the 100-member chamber on a bill extending the government’s spending authority through Feb. 8, setting the stage for final Senate passage. Swift approval was expected in the House of Representatives, after which the bill would go to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.
The Democrats had demanded firm assurances that the chamber would consider the fate of the immigrants who were brought into the U.S. years ago by their parents before agreeing to end the legislative standoff. Democratic leader Charles Schumer said McConnell assured him if the immigration issue is not resolved by February 8, the Senate would immediately consider it right after that date.
The legislation to end the shutdown must still be approved by the House of Representatives, but that is considered virtually certain, before the measure is sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Ahead of the vote, federal agencies on Monday were in the midst of furloughing thousands of civil servants without pay and starting to curtail their operations at the start of a new workweek. The shutdown had started at Friday midnight after the Senate failed to adopt a House-approved stop-gap funding measure that extended through mid-February.
The stalemate roiled official Washington.
Before the vote, Trump attacked Democratic lawmakers in new Twitter comments, saying, “The Democrats are turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens. Not good!” He contended that “Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don’t want to do it but are powerless!”
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told CNN that the Trump administration wants “to find a pathway” for the young immigrants, many of whom only know the U.S. as their home country, to stay in the United States. But Short also said “a real security threat” remains on the southern U.S. border with Mexico, with Trump demanding funding for a wall to thwart further illegal immigration.
A new Trump political ad accused Democrats of being “complicit” in U.S. murders committed by illegal immigrants.
Late Sunday, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said Democratic and Republican lawmakers had “yet to reach an agreement on a path forward” linking the full reopening of the government to resolution of the deportation issue.
Earlier, in a Senate speech, he called the partial government closure the “Trump Shutdown,” contending that he offered the president funding for the wall, a key 2016 Trump campaign promise, but that the U.S. leader would not compromise on other immigration policy changes.
“He can’t take yes for an answer,” Schumer said of Trump.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Monday, “We’re not going to start having negotiations about immigration reform until the government’s reopened. It’s pretty simple.”
The U.S. government has partially shut down on several occasions over lawmaking and funding disputes. The most recent till now was a 16-day shutdown in 2013 in a partisan deadlock over health care policy. About 850,000 federal workers were furloughed then.
Services that stop or continue during a federal shutdown vary. But federal research projects could be stalled, national parks and museums closed, tax questions left unanswered, processing of veterans’ disability applications delayed, and federal nutrition programs suspended, as was the case in 2013.
Senate lawmakers spent all day Sunday meeting and negotiating and looking for a way to end the impasse on immigration. McConnell called off a 1 a.m. Monday vote on reopening the government in favor of the vote at noon, Washington time.
With Republican and Democratic lawmakers blaming each other for the stalemate, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday also appeared to fault the White House for the immigration standoff, specifically hardline immigration Trump adviser Stephen Miller.
“Every time we have a proposal, it is only yanked back by staff members,” Graham said. “As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiation on immigration, we are going nowhere.”
Graham said Miller is out of the “mainstream” with his immigration views.
Sanders called Graham’s comments “a sad and desperate attempt…to tarnish a staffer.” She said Miller was not at the White House “to push his agenda,” but rather to support Trump’s immigration views.