After a full day of uncertainty, the House of Representatives on Thursday evening approved a plan to fund the federal government until February 16, sending the measure to the Senate, where the bill is likely to be derailed by strong opposition from Democrats and a few Republicans, as they call for deals on overall spending levels for 2018 and a bipartisan agreement on DACA and the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”
“Now it’s on the Senate,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). “They need to do their job; we’ve done our job.”
“The right thing for the Senate to do would be to vote yes, and continue to negotiate,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
The final House vote was 230-197 in favor of the plan to fund the federal government to February 16, as Republicans made clear that if a shutdown occurs, it should be blamed on the Democrats.
Two hours after the House vote, the Senate voted to begin debate on the bill, but put off further action until Friday, as House Speaker Paul Ryan led a parade of GOP lawmakers in calling on Democrats in the Senate to accept the House-passed plan, and avoid a government shutdown.
“Senator Schumer, do not shut down the federal government,” the Speaker said, appealing to the Senate Democratic Leader, as Republicans moved to blame Democrats for any government shutdown.
“My friends on the other side are showing why the people, the American people, like root canals, head lice, colonoscopies more than Congress,” said Rep. Pete Olsen (R-TX).
Democrats fired right back, saying that Republicans were to blame for the legislative brouhaha over government funding, repeatedly saying the GOP is in charge of the House, Senate, and White House.
“You can do anything you want,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was even more pointed, arguing that an extra item in the funding bill to insure resources for children’s health coverage was “like a bowl of doggie doo with a cherry on top.”
For other Democrats, the calculus on this vote was simple – if there was no provision in the measure to deal with the DACA program and the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” then they weren’t going to support it.
“No DACA,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). “I am a nay vote tonight.”
As the day went on, there was a distinctly higher volume of verbal barbs between the two parties, as President Donald Trump and GOP leaders took clear aim at Democrats in Congress, hoping to win the battle of public opinion on who would be responsible for any government shutdown.
Just a few hours before the House vote, a bloc of more conservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus had vowed to vote against the bill, frustrated with the process that has once again left Congress far behind on budget work for 2018.
“I mean it’s a broken system,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). “It baffles me and it perplexes me, because I come from the business world, that we don’t run our country better.”
“When will Republicans start limiting government?” asked Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who voted against the temporary funding plan.
The head of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), told reporters that he won assurances from GOP leaders for votes in coming weeks to hold votes on funding for the military, along with a vote on a GOP designed immigration bill.
But even if those bills were to be approved in the House, they would not have 60 votes to make it through the U.S. Senate, which could bring the Congress, the President, and the nation to the brink of the first government funding crisis since 2013.
In October of that year, Republicans in the Senate blocked action on funding bills to protest the Obama health law – but after 16 days, they gave in, and their effort fared badly in some polls, though it seemingly had no effect on the GOP in the next election.
In the Senate, Republicans were clearly preparing to blame Democrats for stopping the stopgap budget – known as a “CR” or “Continuing Resolution,” even though there may not even be a majority ready to vote for the funding plan.
A little less than two hours after the House vote, the Senate voted unanimously to start debate on the House-passed bill, but put off any votes on the bill until Friday.
As of now, there are not 60 votes for the plan in the Senate – and there may not be a simple majority either, because of the opposition of several Republicans.