By Miriam Raftery
January 20, 2018 (Washington D.C.) – Congress failed to pass a short-term spending bill by Friday night’s deadline that would have funded the federal government only until February 16th. As a result, the federal government is starting a shutdown effective today—the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The key sticking point was Republicans’ failure to protect Dreamers, or young people brought here as children of undocumented immigrants. Trump cancelled former President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting Dreamers but gave Congress six months to pass legislation to protect them before deporting them. That timeline is nearly up. The shutdown also means no renewal of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which has expired.
A procedural action to advance the bill needed 60 votes, but fell far short with a 50-49 vote. The measure was opposed by all but five Democrats. Two independents and four Republicans also joined with Democrats to block the bill. Senator John McCain, fighting brain cancer, was absent. Both California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris voted no.
President Trump blames Democrats for the shutdown. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee called Democrats “obstructionist losers.”
But Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York faulted the President for refusing to negotiate to protect Dreamer. Although the President earlier said he would protect Dreamers, then amended that to require border wall funding as a condition, even after Democrats reluctantly agreed to consider border wall funding the President backed down under pressure from right-wing Congressional Republican members.
During the Obama administration, Republicans forced government shutdowns over Obamacare but now object to the same tactic wielded by their political opponents.
Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat running against Rep. Duncan Hunter, said as the shutdown prospect loomed Friday, "“Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and their president directly created this chaos. President Trump originated the DACA crisis himself by winding down the program. He then failed to accept a bipartisan solution last week and derailed negotiations with his offensive immigration comment about Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa. As more than one hundred Dreamers lose their protection from deportation every day, and millions of sick children risk losing their healthcare under CHIP, Republicans are now putting the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of federal workers at risk."
He adds, "What a symbol of chaos under Republican rule if tomorrow’s anniversary of Trump’s inauguration finds the government closed. Republicans have failed to demonstrate the ability to govern and this GOP-created crisis underscores the need to elect Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.”
Congresswoman Susan Davis, who represents much of East County, issued this statement: "
“Running the government month by month causes long standing harm to people and our security. Republicans had plenty of time to pass budget legislation and address critical issues facing the country, such as DACA, disaster relief, CHIP funding, community health centers, and the opioid crisis. National security and taking care of Dreamers has always had bipartisan support but the President couldn’t get to yes. A government shutdown was not inevitable but you have to care that government works for the people.”
President Trump, by contrast, tweeted, "Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border." He called on voters to elect "more Republicans."
Republican leader Mitch McConnell now says he’ll introduce an even shorter-term measure to fund the government only through February 8, but still with no protection for Dreamers.
Meanwhile millions of people are taking to the streets today to protest the Trump administration policies on the second annual women's march. In San Diego, marchers are convening downtown from as far away as Julian, participants have told ECM.
The effects of the shutdown are far-reaching. While the military remains in force along with critical national security functions, members of the military won’t get their paychecks, nor will most other federal workers. The IRS help line for taxpayers is shut down. Public health inspectors may be temporarily furloughed. Travelers are warned to expect delays at airports due to some workers off on furloughs. Air traffic controllers remain on the job, and trains will still be operating. Post offices will remain open, thanks to funding from stamps. But national parks and monuments are shut down including the Statue of Liberty, symbol of American freedom.