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US lawmakers agree on deal to end government shutdown

Under the compromise deal, the government would be funded till February 8 and lawmakers would work until then on a “global agreement” to protect Dreamers.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2018 02:23 IST
Yashwant Raj
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer leaves a meeting with Democrats and heads to the Senate floor on January 22, 2018.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer leaves a meeting with Democrats and heads to the Senate floor on January 22, 2018. (NYT)

US Republicans and Democratic senators agreed Monday on a compromise deal that is expected to end the shutdown of the federal government and fund it till February 8 and work until then on a “global agreement” to protect undocumented immigrants brought as children.

If an agreement on these immigrants — Dreamers protected so far by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA — remained elusive till then, a separate bipartisan legislation will be brought for an up or down vote in the senate, according to the deal announced by both parties.

“We will vote today to reopen the government to continue negotiating a global agreement,” Democratic minority leader in the senate Chuck Schumer said on the floor of the senate, declaring his party’s agreement to the compromise deal and its decision, therefore, to not block the spending bill.

The senate voted 80-18 to pass the bill, which will have to be cleared by the House of Representatives before it goes for President Donald Trump’s signature for his assent. The shutdown, which entered the third day, is expected to end later in Monday, with the government funded through for the next three weeks.

This may or may not end in a legislation that will protect an estimated 700,000 DACA beneficiaries from deportation as the measure passed by the senate, if it does not clear that chamber, may run into trouble with the House of Representatives, which could go the other way.

Recent shutdowns, their causes and impact:
October 2013: Sixteen-day partial shutdown, which came as tea party conservatives, cheered on by outside groups, demanded that language to block implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law be added to a must-do funding bill. Then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to avoid a shutdown by funding the government piecemeal, but the effort faltered.
The shutdown affected most government operations and resulted in the furlough of 850,000 employees, costing the government 6.6 million days of work and more than $2.5 billion in lost productivity, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Boehner survived the shutdown but stepped down two years later amid conflict with the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.
December 1995-January 1996: Republicans led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, intent on slashing the budget, forced a three-week shutdown in a bid to coerce President Bill Clinton to sign onto a balanced budget agreement. Republicans were saddled with the blame, but most Americans suffered relatively minor inconveniences such as closed parks and delays in processing passport applications. The fight bolstered Clinton’s popularity and he sailed to re-election that November.
November 1995: Five-day shutdown after Clinton vetoed an interim spending bill to block Medicare premium increases. Led to longer shutdown a month later.

Some in the Democratic party have come out in opposition, especially those considering a run for the White House in 2020, with an eye on the Hispanic vote. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were among those who voted no on a procedural measure to advance the funding bill.

Republicans and Democrats had continued to trade blame even as they negotiated to end the government shutdown Monday, the start of the workweek when its effect will be felt with hundreds and thousands of federal employees forced to stay home and their office-issued smartphones going dark.

US senate’s Republican leadership will vote in noon to end the shutdown with a proposal to fund the federal government till February 8, as demanded by Democrats, and take up fate of undocumented immigrant brought as children later if not resolved by then.

Republican Mitch McConnell, the senate majority leader, put forward the proposal Sunday night, seeking a vote ahead of the the 1:00am vote he had called for earlier. He said: “Let’s step back from the brink. Let’s stop victimizing the American people and get back to work on their behalf.”

McConnell repeated the offer Monday, promising in firmer language to bring a legislation to protect these nearly 700,000 immigrants from deportation to replace the Obama-era regulation DACA, which is set to lapse in the first week of March.

Charles Schumer, the top Democrat in the senate, rejected the Sunday night proposal, but had not responded to the new offer put forward by the Republicans. Democrats blocked the spending bill last Friday, demanding a commitment on DACA beneficiaries who include an estimated 8,000 Indians.

President Trump has been uncharacteristically quieter, resisting an impulse to dominate the news cycle on any issue and piled on pressure on Democrats accusing them of “turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens (the DACA beneficiaries)”.

The president has also been less than clear on this issue, confounding even his own party. He has been sympathetic to the cause of DACA immigrants — used the phrase “bill of love” for the issue in talks earlier — but has struggled with hardliners in his administration who have pulled him back.

Schumer has said he and the president had agreed to a compromise Friday, just hours before the start of the shutdown that would have protected these immigrants from deportation in exchange for full funding for Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico, and some other concessions. He reneged on the deal close to the shutdown hour. A frustrated Schumer has since said talking to the president was akin to “negotiating with Jell-O”.

Democrats are pushing Republicans, and the president, on this leveraging their vote in senate. The House passed a four-week short-term funding bill earlier last week, but it failed to muster the 60 votes — 60% in the 100-member body — needed, with significant defections from the Republican party.

Moderates in both parties have been working since on a compromise deal, which has been elusive so far, despite some progress, call it concessions, from their respective leaders.

The shutdown that started Saturday morning is expected to furlough an estimated 850,000 federal employees, forcing them to stay home. Active duty military personnel will continue to report for work but will not be paid unless so allowed by congress, or after the shutdown.

Most essential services remain unaffected but there were reports of confusion at national monuments and major tourist destinations administered by the federally-un National Park Service.