WASHINGTON — The brief federal government shutdown ended Friday morning after President Donald Trump signed a legislative package that included short-term funding and $400 billion in spending that was passed overnight by Congress.
“Just signed Bill. Our Military will now be stronger than ever before,” Trump said in a tweet, that added, “Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”
With that signature, it was expected to be business as usual in the nation’s capital after an unforeseen hiccup in the plan by leaders of Congress to fund the government for another six weeks, through March 23.
Using his senatorial privilege to block the Senate vote until after the Thursday midnight deadline, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went to the floor — to the irritation of his fellow lawmakers — to complain that the negotiated budget deal would push the deficit over $1 trillion.
Trump appeared to take note, and urged voters to elect more Republicans.
“Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military. Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage,” he tweeted. “Must elect more Republicans in 2018 Election!”
Senate and House leaders waited Paul out, and acted as soon as their rules allowed.
At about 1:30 a.m. — an hour and a half after the government ran out of money — the Senate easily approved the legislative package 78-21 that its two party leaders had negotiated for a bipartisan breakthrough.
At 5:32 a.m., the House passed the bill 240-186 as it overcame opposition from liberal Democrats angry that the package did not include an immigration policy fix and conservative Republicans upset about its expected impact raising the deficit over $1 trillion.
The budget deal, negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), adds $300 billion in spending for defense and domestic programs and $89 billion in hurricane disaster aid.
Paul defended his scolding of his fellow lawmakers on the Senate floor, forcing the shutdown and keeping them up all night, to make his statement.
“I didn’t come up here to be part of somebody’s club. I didn’t come up here to be liked,” Paul said.
Senate GOP leaders, however, were clearly irked. In his attempt to sway Paul to relent, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas declared his fellow Republican was “wasting everyone’s time” and prompting a shutdown for “no good reason.” But Paul, the resident contrarian, repelled suggestions to stand aside.
The budget agreement is married to a six-week temporary funding bill needed to keep the government operating and to provide time to implement the budget pact.
The bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies.
It also would increase the government’s debt cap, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won’t occur before March 2019.
Senate leaders had celebrated the budget deal as a sign they had left behind some of their chronic dysfunction. Just three weeks ago, Senate Democrats sparked a three-day partial government shutdown by filibustering a spending bill, seeking relief for Dreamer immigrants who’ve lived in the country illegally since they were children.
Senate Democrats had no appetite for another shutdown.
House GOP leaders shored up support among conservatives for the measure, which would shower the Pentagon with money but add hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation’s $20 trillion-plus debt.
House Democratic leaders opposed the measure — arguing it should resolve the plight of Dreamers — but not with all their might. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi 9D-Calif.) made it plain she wasn’t pressuring her colleagues to kill the bill, which is packed with money for party priorities like infrastructure, combating opioid abuse and helping college students.
“She negotiated the deal. Her team was in on it,” said top GOP vote counter Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). “And they were a ‘no.’ And at the end her team broke.”
Pelosi continued to press Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for a promise to bring an immigration measure sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) up for a vote. But many Democrats backed the measure without that assurance.
Ryan said again Thursday he was determined to bring an immigration bill to the floor this year — albeit only one that has Trump’s blessing.
“We will solve this DACA problem,” Ryan said just before the vote. “Once we get this budget agreement done — and we will get this done for no matter how long it takes for us to stay here — we will focus on bringing that debate to this floor and finding a solution.”
The episode was a clear defeat for those who had followed a risky strategy to use the party’s leverage on the budget to address immigration. Protection for the Dreamers under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, formally expires next month and there’s no sign that lawmakers are making progress on an agreement to extend the program.
Republicans, too, had their disappointments. Many were sheepish about the bushels of dollars for Democratic priorities and the return next year of $1 trillion-plus deficits. But they pointed to money they have long sought for the Pentagon, which they say needs huge sums for readiness, training and weapons modernization.
“It provides what the Pentagon needs to restore our military’s edge for years to come,” said Ryan.
Beyond $300 billion worth of increases for the military and domestic programs, the agreement adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government’s borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions. There’s also $16 billion to renew a slew of expired tax breaks that Congress seems unable to kill.
“I love bipartisanship, as you know,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “But the problem is the only time we discover bipartisanship is when we spend more money.”
With Associated Press