- A key vote on a short-term US government funding bill failed in the Senate.
- The vote’s failure led the federal government into a partial shutdown early Saturday morning, the first in more than four years.
- Democrats opposed the bill because it did not codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
- Some Republicans voted against the bill because it did not provide enough certainty to the military.
The US federal government slipped into its first partial shutdown in more than four years early Saturday morning, as the Senate voted against a key procedural step to pass a short-term funding bill Friday night.
The cloture vote, which allows a bill to proceed without a filibuster, failed to get the 60 votes needed for passage. The vote closed with a final vote of 50 to 49. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against the measure so that he could reconsider the motion.
While the vote remained open, the funding for the government ran out at midnight. A shutdown was triggered when the Office of Management and Budget released a memo directing agencies to enact contingency plans they have already prepared for such a scenario.
All but five Democrats voted to block the short-term bill that would have sustained federal funding at current levels, called a continuing resolution (CR). Most cited the fact that the measure did not include a permanent solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program.
Four Democrats who voted for the bill – Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, and Heidi Heitkamp – are all from states that President Donald Trump won and are up for reelection in 2018. New senator Doug Jones of Alabama, a deep-red state, was the only other defection.
Trump announced he would end the DACA program in September, but he gave Congress six months to codify it into law. With the March deadline approaching, Democrats demanded that a DACA fix be included in the CR.
According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump agreed to a deal that included protections for DACA and even some funding for a border wall.
“In exchange for strong DACA protections, I reluctantly put the border wall on the table for discussion,” Schumer said. “Even that was not enough to entice the president to finish the deal.”
In addition to the Democratic wall, a handful of Republican senators voted against the bill. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee voted against due to concerns about the adequacy of another CR in funding the government. The bill would have only funded the government through February 16. Sen. Rand Paul also voted against the bill because of its addition to the national debt. Jeff Flake also voted no.
The White House decried the vote’s failure in a statement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown,” Sanders said. “Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans. We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behaviour of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
McConnell told members during a speech after the shutdown kicked in that an amendment would be offered to push the deadline to February 8 instead of February 16 as in the House bill. This would require the House to revote on the bill, but is closer to the Democrats’ request for a shorter CR to finish off negotiations.
According to Senate rules, the vote on that amendment could not come until later on Saturday at the earliest.
Based on public comments, it appears no one deal currently has the support of enough members to pass the 60-vote threshold. But members were upbeat.
GOP Sen. Bob Corker told reporters that the two sides were closing in on a deal and it was “a date in early February, a few days apart.”
The failure of the bill is the culmination of a day of wrangling in which Schumer met with Trump in an attempt to get a compromise which did not come.
House Republicans attempted to sweeten the bill by attaching funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next six years, but it was not enough to win over Democrats.
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