Senate Passes Three-Week CR to Reopen Federal Government

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor in the Capitol after the chamber passed a continuing resolution to reopen the government on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor in the Capitol after the chamber passed a continuing resolution to reopen the government on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 22, 2018 at 5:12pm

The Senate voted 81-18 to pass a continuing resolution running through Feb. 8 on Monday afternoon, sending it back to the House as Day Three of the partial government shutdown dragged on.

The House is expected to clear the stopgap for President Donald Trump’s signature, ending the shutdown in time for federal workers to return to their offices Tuesday morning. A number of House Democrats appear likely to back the measure after opposing a previous version last week, and top Democrats predicted the CR would be passed this time.

Senate passage ended a bitter week of partisan stalemate in the chamber as each party dug in and blamed the other side for the resulting three-day government shutdown, the first sustained funding lapse since 2013. Many Democrats said McConnell’s commitment to take up an immigration bill was a sign of progress towards a Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program fix, while Republicans and the White House charged Democrats with forcing a shutdown that yielded few results for them.

Democrats lent their votes after winning a commitment to floor time for an immigration debate, including legislation that would protect nearly 700,000 “Dreamers” enrolled in the DACA program, which Trump wants to end March 5. That debate would occur if there is no bipartisan deal before the stopgap funding measure expires Feb. 8, under the arrangement worked out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

Working for the Weekend: Highlights from the Shutdown

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The outcome was assured once Schumer announced his side would provide the necessary votes just before a scheduled noon vote on cloture. The Senate then voted 81-18 to cut off debate on the Feb. 8 continuing resolution, which also contains a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and would delay or suspend three taxes imposed under the 2010 health care law.

Prior to the final votes, the Senate adopted a resolution correcting the underlying text that would enable federal workers to receive back pay for periods when shutdown-related furloughs were in effect. The changes would also allow reimbursements to states or federal grant recipients implementing federal programs for providing the money upfront to compensate employees and keep facilities operating during a possible future fiscal 2018 funding lapse — a seeming nod to the difficulty in getting the votes for the next appropriations bill needed in 17 days. That translates into only 10 legislative days when lawmakers are in town and working.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he was “encouraged by commitments” McConnell has made about finding floor time for an immigration policy debate following passage of the three-week CR.

“I’m going to vote yes,” said Angus King, I-Maine, prior to the cloture vote. “I think the statement that the majority leader made this morning was an important step, a commitment to bring a bill to the floor … I think he used the term ‘level playing field.’ ”

In his opening floor remarks, McConnell stipulated that turning to immigration legislation was contingent on government remaining open.

“Should these issues not be resolved by the time these funding bills expire on Feb. 8, so long as the government remains open — so long as the government remains open,” McConnell said, stressing that Democrats would need to back the next spending bill needed in three weeks in order for his commitment to remain on the table.

“It would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security, and related issues, as well as disaster relief, defense funding, healthcare, and other important matters,” McConnell continued, stipulating: “Let me be clear: this immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset, and an amendment process that is fair to all sides.”

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. said Democrats in his discussions have come toward the GOP position.

“They’ve come from a requirement that it be put on a guaranteed-pass bill to give a fair shake, to having an open discussion in the Senate,” he said. “But there was also a concern that if it was a wide open process, that they would have to take hard votes on conservative approaches as well. Our response was ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ They’re recognizing that.”

Watch- Schumer: GOP Majority Has 17 Days to Reach Deal on DACA

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Rounds, a member of a bipartisan group that met this weekend to get a stopgap measure passed, said Senate Democrats are not seeking assurances of a House vote on an immigration package and have limited their focus to winning Senate passage. Any requirement of a House commitment could make a deal more difficult because an immigration measure that protects Dreamers may not have enough GOP support in the House for Speaker Paul D. Ryan to agree to take it up.

“We can’t make promises on what the House will do,” Rounds said. “We can provide assurances of a fair process in the Senate.”

After Senate passage, which is likely after the cloture vote ends, the measure will need to go back to the House, which approved the initial, four-week version last Thursday. House GOP leaders have said they have no problems with version shortening the duration to Feb. 8 from Feb. 16 as initially drafted, although some Republicans in the House are likely to have concerns with the Senate approach on immigration policy.

House GOP defections seem likely to be offset by gains among Democrats, however.

“I think it’s going to pass,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said.

House Budget Committee ranking member John Yarmuth, D-Ky., is leaning toward supporting the CR. “I think it probably works for 17 days,” he said. “We really don’t lose much ground if it doesn’t work out.

Yarmuth said if Schumer and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois “are comfortable with it, then I think it’s fine. McConnell is also in a position where he absolutely has to bring [immigration] to the floor. He can’t renege on that promise.”

The House is expected to vote on the measure after it comes over from the Senate, later on Monday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump is likely to sign the bill into law as early as Monday, officially ending the three-day shutdown.

David Lerman, Paul M. Krawzak and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that language added to the continuing resolution that would authorize retroactive pay in the event of future fiscal 2018 funding lapses applies to states and federal grant recipients.