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US President Donald Trump signs spending bill, ending US shutdown

US Republicans and Democratic senators reached a compromise deal, signalling an end to the shutdown.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2018 22:58 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,US shutdown,US government shutdown
President Donald Trump speaks from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP File Photo)

President Donald Trump on Monday signed into law a short-term spending bill funding the federal government until February 8, ending a shutdown that had overshadowed the first anniversary of his presidency over the fate of undocumented immigrant brought to the US as children.

The legislation was a product of a deal reached first by senators Monday morning that funded the federal government for the next three weeks — not four, as proposed by Republicans — in return for considering a legislation reinstating protection from deportation for the 700,000 undocumented immigrants.

US Republicans and Democratic senators green-lighted that compromise deal Monday morning, signalling an end to the shutdown. The House of Representatives passed it later in the day and sent it to the president for his signature, which was announced as done late in the evening.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump had said in a statement after it became clear Democrats had decided to let the legislation go through.

“As I have always said, once the government is funded, my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

According to the compromise agreement, if a legislation on the status of these immigrants — Dreamers protected so far by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA — remained elusive till then, February 8, 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 signature. The shutdown is expected end later in the day, with the government funded through for the next three weeks, till February 8.

This may or may not end in a legislation that will protect an estimated 700,000 DACA beneficiaries a permanent protection 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.

Some in the Democratic party have come out in opposition, specially 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 vote no on a procedural measure to advance the funding bill.

Republicans and Democrats had continued to trade blame even as they had 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 noon to end the shutdown with a proposal to fund the federal government for another three weeks, 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 1:00 am vote he had called for earlier. He said: “Let’s step back from the brink. Let’s stop victimising 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, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), set to lapse in the first week of March.

Charles Schumer, the top Democrat in the senate, had 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 Donald 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 favour 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 on 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.

Starting Saturday morning, the shutdown entered the third day Monday, which 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-run National Park Service.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 10:50 IST