WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump signed a government spending bill Monday evening that ends a three-day partial shutdown, White House official said. But that leaves the fight over a politically charged immigration proposal unresolved for at least another three weeks.
The impasse broke after Senate Democrats accepted a deal from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that will fund the government through Feb. 8. In exchange, McConnell agreed to address Democratic demands that Congress restore protection against deportation to young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as “dreamers.”
“I am pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have now come to their senses,” Trump said in a statement read earlier Monday at the White House briefing. “We will make a long term deal if and only if it’s good for our country.”
The Senate passed the bill 81-18, and just over an hour later it cleared the House on a 266-150 vote.
The bill, H.R. 195, sets the clock for a showdown between Republicans and Democrats on immigration, one that could potentially end in another standoff over spending. Sen. John Thune, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, said it’s unlikely Congress will be able to pass a final spending bill in three weeks and will probably need a fifth stopgap measure.
“The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the dreamers from being deported,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, underscoring the impending deadline.
The deal is the culmination of days of negotiations as both parties traded blame for the government closing that began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Senate Democrats ultimately accepted McConnell’s commitment that if party leaders and the White House can’t reach a compromise on immigration beforehand, it’s his “intention” to permit a Senate vote on an immigration measure after Feb. 8.
Monday’s bargain only postpones a reckoning on deep divisions among the two parties, conservatives in the House and Trump. The president and Republican conservatives have demanded that any immigration deal include funding for Trump’s signature border wall and changes in immigration laws to end visa preferences for family members of U.S. citizens, which Trump disparages as “chain migration.”
A group of Senate Republicans met with Trump at the White House shortly after the Senate advanced the spending bill, including No. 2 GOP leader John Cornyn and immigration hard-liners Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. “I do expect the White House to remain engaged,” Cornyn said afterward.
Centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama met with Trump later.
“I think that he had a feeling that we’re two of the five that voted not to shut down on the Democrats’ side, we’re going to give him an honest opinion and be an honest broker,” Manchin said afterward.
House Speaker Paul Ryan underscored the differences as Senate leaders negotiated. He promised House Republicans that they will not be bound by any arrangement reached in the Senate on immigration to reopen the government, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and Representative Doug Collins of Georgia said on Sunday.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said that once the spending bill was passed, “I’m hoping we can get serious about a whole host of issues.”
Senate Democrats, who had sought firmer guarantees from McConnell on immigration, were initially reluctant to accept his terms. The measure also extended a federal children’s health insurance program. An amendment was added saying government workers who are furloughed will get their back pay for this shutdown and any other funding lapse in 2018.
Democrats, and some Republicans, wanted language protecting people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, as part of the spending bill to ensure it became law. Some Republicans have opposed such a move, calling it amnesty.
Trump decided in September to end the Obama-era initiative effective in March, although he said Congress should act to protect them. The U.S. counts 690,000 people currently enrolled in DACA.
The White House refused to negotiate over immigration, one of the Democrats’ central issues, while the government remained closed. Trump blamed the Democratic leader for what the White House dubbed “the Schumer Shutdown” while Schumer blamed the president for “the Trump Shutdown.”
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