You may have missed it overnight while you were sleeping, but we had the second government shutdown in history under one-party control of the government, this time due to the antics of Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul (R-KY).
Aqua Buddha used the arcane rules of the Senate that allow a single senator to hold up business in the chamber to inveigh against the GOP embracing deficit spending (after he voted for the GOP tax bill in December that guaranteed deficit such spending). The dumbest shutdown ever:
That set in motion a shutdown that ultimately lasted just over six hours — even though Paul’s protest didn’t change a single word of the document, and he knew it wouldn’t from the very beginning.
“When Rand Paul pulls a stunt like this, it easy to understand why it’s difficult to be Rand Paul’s next door neighbor,” Rep. Charlie Dent told Politico. “The whole delay and filibuster exercise on the budget agreement is utterly pointless.” (The congressman was referring to an incident last year in which Paul’s neighbor Rene Boucher attacked Paul, breaking multiple ribs, in a landscaping dispute).
After Aqua Buddha’s publicity stunt finally ended, the Senate moved to pass the bipartisan budget deal. The House followed suit early this morning. Congress votes to end government shutdown:
The Senate passed the measure on a 71-28 vote shortly before 2 a.m.
The House vote, around 5:30 a.m., was 240-186. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) had urged her members to oppose the bill over the GOP’s failure to resolve the standoff over 700,000 Dreamers, but her efforts ultimately fell short. Seventy-three Democrats ended up backing the bipartisan package, which came after months of closed-door talks.
The defeat was a bitter one for Pelosi and other top Democrats, who have sought for months to tie a resolution of the fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to the budget caps negotiations.
The bill now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it quickly into law to avoid major disruptions of the federal government.
In addition to tens of billions of dollars in new funding for both the Pentagon and domestic programs, the budget package will keep federal agencies open until March 23. This will give time for the House and Senate Appropriations panels to craft a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that will fund federal agencies until Sept. 30.
The bipartisan agreement includes nearly $90 billion in disaster aid for Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The federal government’s debt limit will also be extended until March 2019.
“This is a great victory for our men and women in uniform. Republicans and Democrats joined together to finally give our troops the resources and our generals the certainty to plan for the future,” said Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Senate Democrats also claimed victory, especially Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped craft the deal along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and House leaders.
“What makes Democrats proudest of this bill is that after a decade of cuts to programs that help the middle class, we have a dramatic reversal,” added Schumer. “Funding for education, infrastructure, fighting drug abuse, and medical research will all, for the first time in years, get very significant increases, and we have placed Washington on a path to deliver more help to the middle class in the future.”
David Weigel at the Washington Post adds, What happened to the Democrats’ ‘Better Deal?’ Check the spending bill.
Eight months after Democrats began to release their “Better Deal” agenda, they are on the cusp of passing some of it into law — by tucking it into this week’s must-pass spending bill.
“This budget agreement shows that the Better Deal agenda is more than a set of ideas; now, it’s going to be real policies,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement. “It delivers on exactly what we laid out last year: rural broadband, child care and assistance with college tuition.”
In negotiations, Democrats checked off several items in the Better Deal, a compendium of policies backed by Democrats in the past and brainstormed in meetings last spring and summer. The new items include $5.8 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant program; $20 billion in infrastructure spending, including rural broadband funds, with no corresponding cuts; and a special joint committee on fulfilling pension obligations, with the results to be voted on by the end of the year.
Passing those items as part of a spending package will let the White House — eager to advertise new spending on infrastructure and rural voters — take some of the credit. Democrats believe some of the credit will redound to the 10 Democrats facing reelection this year in states won by President Trump in 2016.
“It shows that Democrats are willing to work with anyone in a Republican-controlled Washington to deliver for the middle class,” Schumer said.
So next week, McConnell tees up immigration debate in the Senate:
The GOP leader early Friday morning teed up a House-passed shell bill being used as the vehicle for the Senate’s debate. A procedural vote on taking up the House legislation is expected on Monday at 5:30 p.m.
McConnell said earlier this week that he would use a non-immigration bill as the base for the debate, essentially letting the Senate start from scratch.
“The bill I move to, which will not have underlying immigration text, will have an amendment process that will ensure a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said from the Senate floor, announcing his plans.
The free-wheeling debate is expected to take up the Senate’s entire schedule next week as lawmakers are struggling to reach a deal that could get 60 votes.
Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters earlier this week that the administration wanted its framework to be the Senate’s starting point.
That proposal would have offered a path to citizenship to roughly 1.8 million immigrants in exchange for tens of billions in border security and changes to legal immigration.
But it was panned by Democrats and some Republicans over concerns about cuts to legal immigration and limits on family-based immigration.
The Trump administration announced last year that it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, kicking the fight to Congress.
Lawmakers have until March 5 to pass a legislative fix or risk the deportation of roughly 700,000 immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
There is no concomitant commitment from House Speaker Paul Ryan, despite Nancy Pelosi’s best efforts. Politico reports:
Ryan [tried] to reassure Pelosi and wavering Democrats that he is resolved to coming up with a solution for Dreamers.
“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment that I share,” Ryan told reporters on Thursday. “If anyone doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign.”
Ryan had hoped his last statement — a different version of what he has already promised — would provide enough Democrats the political cover they needed to vote for the budget deal. But it wasn’t enough for Pelosi.
If the Senate can piece together a DACA bill that clears 60 votes for cloture and passage in the Senate, the House Speaker should suspend the rules (as he has done for just about everything else) and immediately bring the Senate DACA bill to the floor of the House for a vote. He needs to stop hiding behind this B.S. line that he will only hold a vote on a bill that Trump approves. This is not how separation of powers works. “The President proposes, Congress disposes.” Congress has a duty to enact a bill, and if the president does not agree he can veto it. But the president does not exercise a preemptive veto before the legislative process has even begun.
It is now all hands on deck for a DACA fix next week. Contact your senators and member of Congress today to demand a DACA fix that is not tied to Trump’s white nationalist agenda of dramatically reducing legal immigration, ending family-based immigration, and building his useless wall on the Mexican border. “Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.“ – Gen.George S. Patton Jr.