washington Back to work: Shutdown ends as Dems relent


Staff/wire report

WASHINGTON

President Donald Trump signed a bill reopening the government late Monday, ending a 69-hour display of partisan dysfunction after Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations. They relented in return for Republican assurances that the Senate will soon take up the plight of young immigrant “dreamers” and other contentious issues.

The vote set the stage for hundreds of thousands of federal workers to return today, cutting short what could have become a messy and costly impasse. The House approved the measure shortly thereafter, and Trump later signed it behind closed doors at the White House.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, is the only Mahoning Valley lawmaker to vote against the temporary budget deal, which he called “flawed.”

“Our constituents sent us to Washington to keep the government up and running. That is our job. And yet, under Republican control, Congress is now on its fifth short-term funding resolution of this fiscal year alone,” Ryan said in a statement Monday night. “This lack of reliability hinders our ability to make critical, long-term investments in our national defense and domestic programs. The deal that was brought before the House today ending the GOP shutdown was fatally flawed.

“My constituents are expecting security and long-term funding for our military that needs consistency in order to maintain its effectiveness and to protect our people. We also need adequate investments to combat the opioid epidemic, provide veterans services that they earned, stabilize Americans’ pensions plans and investments in our education system, transportation infrastructure and homeland security apparatus. This bill falls short of creating this stability and was not enough to earn my vote.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, said he voted to reopen the government through Feb. 8 after bipartisan talks over the weekend showed a long-term, bipartisan budget solution is achievable. Brown said he will continue working for a long-term budget rather than short-term patches.

“We cannot continue limping along from one budget to the next – that’s no way to run our government,” Brown said. “Over the weekend, I talked to Republicans and Democrats, and I’m confident we are very close to reaching a long-term compromise to provide the certainty Ohio families deserve. That’s why I’m voting today to reopen the government. I applaud the six-year extension of CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program], and now we must move forward on achieving bipartisan solutions to important issues like protecting the retirement workers have earned, combating the opioid epidemic and protecting undocumented children who’ve known no other home than America.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati-area Republican, said, “I’m pleased a sufficient number of my Democratic colleagues have joined Republicans to reopen the federal government. Shutdowns are unnecessary, counterproductive and often end up costing more taxpayer dollars.”

He added: “I’m glad we were finally able to come to an agreement that funds the government and provides quality health care for American children in need. We have more work ahead of us before the next deadline, on Feb. 8, and I will continue working with my bipartisan colleagues on these issues. Government shutdowns ultimately hurt our economy, hurt families and hurt our troops.”

The shutdown did have some impact locally.

At midnight Saturday, the 910th Airlift Wing and the Youngstown Air Reserve Station were in a nonoperating status until further notice.

The base ceased normal operations and was unable to provide some services to Department of Defense ID cardholders including ID-card-issuance services.

YARS is the fourth-largest employer in the Valley, with nearly 2,000 employees. During the shutdown, civilian employees were placed in a furloughed no-pay, no-work status. Military and nonfurloughed civilian Reserve Citizen Airmen – those who are exempted because they are performing work that, by law, may continue during a lapse in appropriations – continued to work.

U.S. Postal Service operations were not interrupted during the shutdown, and all post offices remained open for business as usual.

“Because we are an independent entity that is funded through the sale of our products and services, and not by tax dollars, our services are not impacted by the government shutdown,” said David G. Van Allen of USPS strategic communications.

Both federal courthouses in Youngstown – the Thomas D. Lambros and Nathaniel R. Jones federal buildings and U.S. courthouses that house the U.S. District and bankruptcy courts for the Northern District of Ohio, respectively – were unaffected by the government shutdown. The federal judiciary has funding in place to remain open through Feb. 9, according to a news release.

By relenting, the Democrats prompted a backlash from immigration activists and liberal base supporters who wanted them to fight longer and harder for legislation to protect from deportation the 700,000 or so younger immigrants who were brought to the country as children and now are here illegally.

Democrats climbed onboard after two days of negotiations that ended with new assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate would consider immigration proposals in the coming weeks. But there were deep divides in the Democratic caucus over strategy, as red-state lawmakers fighting for their survival broke with progressives looking to satisfy liberals’ and immigrants’ demands.

Under the agreement, Democrats provided enough votes to pass the stopgap spending measure keeping the government open until Feb. 8. In return, McConnell agreed to resume negotiations over the future of the dreamers, border security, military spending and other budget debates. If those talks don’t yield a deal in the next three weeks, the Republican promised to allow the Senate to debate an immigration proposal – even if it’s one crafted by a bipartisan group and does not have the backing of the leadership and the White House, lawmakers said. McConnell had previously said he would bring a deal to a vote only if Trump supported it.

Sixty votes were needed to end the Democrats’ filibuster, and the party’s senators provided 33 of the 81 the measure got. Eighteen senators, including members of both parties, were opposed. Hours later, the Senate passed the final bill by the same 81-18 vote, sending it to the House, which quickly voted its approval and sent the measure on to Trump.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders predicted that operations would return to normal by this morning.

The plan is far from what many activists and Democrats hoped when they decided to use the budget deadline as leverage. It doesn’t tie the immigration vote to another piece of legislation, a tactic often used to build momentum. It also doesn’t address support for an immigration plan in the House, where opposition to extending the protections for the dreamers is far stronger.

The short-term spending measure means both sides may wind up in a shutdown stalemate again in three weeks.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer lent his backing to the agreement during a speech on the chamber’s floor. “Now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate,” he said of legislation to halt any deportation efforts aimed at the younger immigrants.

The White House downplayed McConnell’s commitment, and said Democrats caved under pressure. “They blinked,” principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told CNN. In a statement, Trump said he’s open to immigration deal only if it is “good for our country.”

Immigration activists and other groups harshly criticized the deal reached by the Democratic leadership.

Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, said the members of the group are “outraged.” She added that senators who voted Monday in favor of the deal “are not resisting Trump, they are enablers.”

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