Written by Jessica AcMoody, senior policy specialist and Alexis Puente, policy intern
Understanding the Government Shutdown
The federal government shut down at midnight on Friday, January 19 after Congress failed to reach an agreement on the FY 2018 federal budget. The Continuing Resolution (CR) to temporarily extend government funding until February 16 did not receive the required 60 votes amid a bitter dispute over negotiations over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and border security. The DACA program offers protection for nearly 700,000 immigrants from deportation. These protections will expire on March 5 unless Congress comes to an agreement.
While House Republicans passed a bill on Thursday to fund the government for four weeks and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, Democrats wanted the CR to include a comprehensive immigration deal that included DACA protections. Without that included, the Senate could not get the 60 votes needed to pass the resolution.
Over the weekend a caucus of moderates from both political parties came up with a compromise to extend government spending until February 8. In return for Democrat support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to take up an immigration bill with DACA protections and allow an open amendment process. McConnell’s promise doesn’t guarantee that the immigration bill will reach the House floor let alone pass the Senate.
The compromise bill passed the Senate on Monday afternoon with a 81-18 vote, the House by a 266-150 vote and was signed by President Trump.
Both Republicans and Democrats are largely divided by party lines, neither willing to compromise. It will be difficult for the Republicans and Democrats to agree on immigration reform, including the legal status of DACA recipients and whether or not that includes granting citizenship.
According to NPR, “In statement on Monday, Trump said that with the government on the path to reopening, the administration would work on immigration legislation — but ‘only if it’s good for our country.’”
The road ahead remains difficult with only a few weeks to reach consensus on major outstanding issues including disaster relief and opioid funding, and overall budget spending levels. And unlike the Senate, the House made no promises to take up immigration legislation.