Congress Likely Heading for Shutdown 01/19 06:05
A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this
weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on
politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants
from being deported.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government
shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a
solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger
immigrants from being deported.
Democrats in the Senate have served notice they will filibuster a four-week,
government-wide funding bill that passed the House Thursday evening, seeking to
shape a subsequent measure but exposing themselves to charges they are
responsible for a looming shutdown.
Republicans controlling the narrowly-divided chamber took up the fight,
arguing that Democrats were holding the entire government hostage over demands
to protect "Dreamer" immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
"Democratic senators' fixation on illegal immigration has already blocked us
from making progress on long-term spending talks," said Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "That same fixation has them threatening to filibuster
funding for the government."
In the House, Republicans muscled the measure through on a mostly party-line
230-197 vote after making modest concessions to chamber conservatives and
defense hawks. House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately summoned reporters to try to
pin the blame on top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.
A test vote on a filibuster of the measure by Senate Democrats appeared
likely before the shutdown deadline of Friday at midnight. Schumer was rebuffed
in an attempt to vote Thursday night.
"We can't keep kicking the can down the road," said Schumer, insisting on
more urgency in talks on immigration. "In another month, we'll be right back
here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better
position to solve them."
The measure would be the fourth stopgap spending bill since the current
budget year started in October. A pile of unfinished Capitol Hill business has
been on hold, first as Republicans ironed out last fall's tax bill and now as
Democrats insist on progress on immigration. Talks on a budget deal to ease
tight spending limits on both the Pentagon and domestic agencies are on hold,
as is progress on a huge $80 billion-plus disaster aid bill.
House GOP leaders sweetened the pending stopgap measure with legislation to
extend for six years a popular health care program for children from low-income
families and two-year delays in unpopular "Obamacare" taxes on medical devices
and generous employer-provided health plans.
A shutdown would be the first since 2013, when tea party Republicans --- in
a strategy not unlike the one Schumer is employing now --- sought to use a
must-pass funding bill to try to force then-President Barack into delaying
implementation of his marquee health care law.
Democrats want a deal to protect around 700,000 immigrants from deportation
who arrived in the U.S. as children and have stayed here illegally. Trump has
ended an Obama-era program providing those protections and given Congress until
March to restore them, and he and Republicans want any immigration deal to
include money for the president's promised wall along the Mexican border and
other security measures.
Congress must act by midnight Friday or the government will begin
immediately locking its doors. Though the impact would initially be spotty ---
since most agencies would be closed until Monday --- the story would be certain
to dominate weekend news coverage, and each party would be gambling the public
would blame the other.
In the event of a shutdown, food inspections, federal law enforcement,
airport security checks, and other vital services would continue, as would
Social Security, other federal benefit programs and military operations. But
federal workers wouldn't be paid.