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House Passes Funding Bill, But Shutdown Still Looms

UPDATED: A Republican effort to avert a government shutdown at midnight on Saturday cleared the House on Thursday, but the votes do not appear to be there yet as the bill heads to the Senate.

The 230-197 vote was on legislation that would extend government funding through Feb. 16. After a procedural vote to open debate, the Senate adjourned at about 10:15 p.m. and will take up the legislation again on Friday. But even that decision stirred division, as Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) objected to leaving for the night.

Democrats dug in their heels to demand that the 30-day funding bill include provisions to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, arguing that Trump has rejected previous immigration proposals that have bipartisan support and that also provide funding for border security.

After the vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan said “it is risky. It is reckless, and it is wrong” for Senate Democrats to block the funding bill.

Senate Democrats say that there is a reason for urgency: The rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is due to take full effect in March. That is because the Trump administration announced last fall that it would be ended, and that it should be left to Congress to pass legislation to address the issue of the 800,000 “dreamers” in the United States. Since then, protesters have been a visible presence on Capitol Hill to press lawmakers to act.

Democrats have some leverage, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs 60 votes for passage.

Those prospects remained uncertain as even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been working on bipartisan immigration legislation, said he would not support the House funding bill. He called the 30-day extension of government funding a “fiasco,” and said it was time “Congress stop the cycle of dysfunction, grow up, and act consistent with the values of a great nation.”

With Graham’s no vote along with at least two other Republicans, as well as the expectation that more than 40 Democrats will be opposed, the spending bill would fall far short of votes needed. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) each indicated that they would vote against it.

For much of the day, President Donald Trump and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders pinned the blame on the other for bringing the government to the point of closure. Trump visited the Pentagon and used the occasion to claim that the “worst thing is what happens to our military.” But in the last government shutdown — which lasted 16 days in October 2013 —  federal employees who provided essential services, like national security and the armed forces, were exempt. Congress also took steps to minimize the impact on the Defense Department.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said “Republicans are dilly dallying, taking their good old time. Maybe they just don’t believe in governance.” She said that the GOP would “own” the shutdown, as they control the House, the Senate, and the White House.

McConnell and other Republicans hammered Democrats for not supporting the  funding bill, as it includes a six-year extension of the children’s health program, also known as CHIP. “Keeping the government running in addition to a six year Children’s Health Insurance Program extension, which gives security to the families of nearly nine million American children who depend on the program for coverage, is commonsense,” McConnell said on Twitter.

As much as children’s health funding is a key Democratic priority, party leaders characterized the move as a brazen political ploy. They got a boost from Jimmy Kimmel, who has spoken out on past congressional action. He sparred with an aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, and wrote that “using kids’ lives as bargaining chips is disgusting.”

“Republicans are the ones funding CHIP completely and immediately. Democrats are the ones voting no,” said Ryan’s aide, Doug Andres.

During the last shutdown in 2013, government agency workers were furloughed, national parks were closed and federal courts operated on reserve funds.

A shutdown this year could mean a delay in such things as the FCC’s review of the pending merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group with Tribune Media. If government properties are closed, it could affect movie and TV location shoots. The Justice Department’s pending antitrust lawsuit against AT&T and Time Warner also could be impacted. A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

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