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Government shutdown: Democrats back bill to end deadlock

Tuesday - 23/01/2018 02:57
- Minority leader Chuck Schumer says his party supports Senate bill
- Paul Ryan says if Senate passes spending bill, House will pass it too

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to advance a short-term spending measure on Monday, after Democrats agreed to support the bill, ending a days-long impasse and paving the way for the reopening of the federal government.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced on Monday that his party would support the legislation – which funds the government through 8 February, while extending for six years a popular health insurance program, Chip, that provides coverage to 9 million children.

A preliminary vote to advance the bill passed 81-18. Sixteen Democrats and two libertarian-minded Republicans voted against it. Among them were a number of potential presidential candidates in 2020 including Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The Senate must still vote on final passage of the bill before it goes to the House. It must then be signed by Donald Trump before federal employees can go back to work.

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan said on Monday that if the Senate passed the spending bill, the House would pass it. He has refused to negotiate on an immigration deal – a key sticking point – while the government remains shut down.

Trump said Democrats “have come to their senses”, and said he was open to an immigration deal only if it was “good for our country”.

Earlier Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, had offered to consider legislation that would protect Dreamers, young undocumented migrants brought to the US as children.

“This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset and an amendment process that’s fair to all sides,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor on Monday.

Speaking on the floor before the vote, Schumer placed the blame on the shutdown squarely on the White House. He mocked Trump for not engaging in negotiations, saying “the great deal-making president sat on the sidelines”.

However, he said he felt confident that McConnell would abide by the terms of the deal they reached and tried to place the burden on following through on the majority leader. “The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the Dreamers from being deported,” said Schumer.

McConnell spoke briefly and took a small victory lap. “If we learned anything in this process, the strategy of shutting down of the government over issue of illegal immigration is something the American people didn’t understand and would not have understood in the future.”

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