Congress votes to end shutdown, sending spending bill to Trump


Congress voted to end the US government shutdown after three days by passing a temporary spending bill, prolonging the fight over a politically charged immigration proposal for at least another three weeks.

The 266-150 House vote sends the measure to President Donald Trump, who is likely to sign it Monday evening. The impasse broke after Senate Democrats accepted a deal from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that would fund the government through Feb. 8. In exchange, McConnell agreed to address Democratic demands that Congress quickly restore protections against deportation to young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, which advocates call “dreamers.”

“I am pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have now come to their senses,” Trump said in a statement read Monday at the White House briefing. “We will make a long term deal if and only if it’s good for our country.”

The agreement paves the way to reopen government offices as soon as Tuesday. The bill, H.R. 195, sets the clock for a showdown between Republicans and Democrats on immigration, one that could potentially end in another standoff over spending. Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, said it’s unlikely Congress will be able to pass a final spending bill in three weeks and will probably need a fifth stopgap measure.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the dreamers from being deported,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, underscoring the impending deadline. The Senate passed the measure 81-18.

US equity gauges closed at records as the government shutdown appeared to be on the brink of ending. The S&P 500 Index rose 0.8 percent to 2,832.97 as of 4 p.m. New York time, an all-time high.

The deal is the culmination of days of negotiations as both parties traded blame for the government closing that began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. White House spokesman Raj Shah said the administration supported the stopgap funding deal.

Senate Democrats ultimately accepted McConnell’s commitment that if party leaders and the White House cannot reach a compromise on immigration beforehand, it’s his “intention” to permit a Senate vote on an immigration measure after Feb 8.

Reckoning Postponed

Monday’s bargain only postpones a reckoning on deep divisions among the two parties, conservatives in the House and Trump. The president and Republican conservatives have demanded that any immigration deal include funding for Trump’s signature border wall and changes in immigration laws to end visa preferences for family members of US citizens, which Trump disparages as “chain migration.”

A group of Senate Republicans met with Trump at the White House shortly after the Senate advanced the spending bill, including No. 2 GOP leader John Cornyn and immigration hardliners Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. “I do expect the White House to remain engaged,” Cornyn said afterward.

Centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama met with Trump later.

“I think that he had a feeling that we’re two of the five that voted not to shut down on the Democrats’ side, we’re going to give him an honest opinion and be an honest broker,” Manchin said afterward.

House Speaker Paul Ryan underscored the differences as Senate leaders negotiated. He promised House Republicans that they will not be bound by any arrangement reached in the Senate on immigration to reopen the government, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and Representative Doug Collins of Georgia said on Sunday.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said that once the spending bill was passed, “I’m hoping we can get serious about a whole host of issues.”

Senate Democrats, who had sought firmer guarantees from McConnell on immigration, were initially reluctant to accept his terms. The measure also extended a federal children’s health insurance program. An amendment was added saying government workers who are furloughed will still get their back pay for this shutdown and any other funding lapse in 2018.

Obama-Era Program

Democrats, and some Republicans, wanted language protecting people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, as part of the spending bill to ensure it became law. Some Republicans have opposed such a move, calling it amnesty.

Trump decided in September to end the Obama-era initiative effective in March, although he said Congress should act to protect them. The US counts 690,000 people currently enrolled in DACA.

The White House refused to negotiate over immigration, one of the Democrats’ central issues, while the government remained closed. Trump blamed the Democratic leader for what the White House dubbed “the Schumer Shutdown” while Schumer blamed the president for “the Trump Shutdown.”