Government Shutdown Coming To An End After Senate Agreement
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The three-day partial government shutdown has come to an end. President Trump has signed a short-term spending bill to fund the government. Senate Democrats agreed to the measure after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell committed to a vote on immigration. Conservatives say Democrats relented because they had overplayed their hand. Here's Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TOM COTTON: Shutting down the government and depriving American citizens of services because you want amnesty for illegal immigrants is a massive political blunder.
MCEVERS: And Democrats for their part say they expect Senate Leader McConnell to make good on his promise. Listen to Michigan Senator Gary Peters.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GARY PETERS: This is a commitment that was done on the floor of the Senate on the record for the American people to see.
MCEVERS: So those are Democratic and Republican voices. Let's bring in our own congressional correspondent Susan Davis, who is on Capitol Hill. Hey, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.
MCEVERS: So what is in this Senate bipartisan deal to end the shutdown?
DAVIS: You know, the new bill looks an awful lot like the old bill. It's essentially identical to the first stopgap funding measure that Democrats rejected. But in this case, it's one week shorter in length. The stopgap will now run through February 8. It also includes provisions that were in the other legislation, including a six-year renewal of the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, and delays of certain health care-related taxes under the Affordable Care Act.
MCEVERS: So, I mean, the Democrats initially said they would not agree to reopen the government until they got a deal from Republicans on immigration legislation, and they did not get that. So did they cave as Tom Cotton suggested?
DAVIS: You know, there was just increasing dividing lines among Senate Democrats about this shutdown strategy. A lot of their more liberal members, notably a lot of their rumored 2020 candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, wanted Democrats to hold the line. They wanted the shutdown to keep going. They voted against the funding bill.
There were cracks, though, among more moderate senators, particularly those who have to run for re-election this year. They were really doubtful that a shutdown was advancing their cause on these ongoing immigration talks. So they started working across the aisle, talking to Republicans. And ultimately a sort of group of centrist senators were able to nudge their party leaders to end the shutdown.
Democrats - you're right - don't have much to immediately show for this strategy, but they say they've extracted what they're calling a more ironclad commitment from Republicans to take up legislation either by that February 8 deadline or immediately after.
MCEVERS: Is there any sense of whether all this has made it harder or easier, then, to get a bipartisan immigration deal?
DAVIS: There still remains a coalition of the willing, as I call it, in the Senate on immigration. The framework that they've talked about hasn't really changed. It still needs to include those four things - a path to citizenship for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, money for border security including President Trump's wall money for the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. And conservatives want some tougher policies on legal immigration and visa programs.
The question that's going to be lingering over this still is where's President Trump? There's still some confusion on Capitol Hill where the president is. Until the White House is very clear what the president will sign, it's hard to say how likely a deal is to happen.
MCEVERS: The Senate has passed bipartisan immigration legislation before. They did it in 2013, but then the House never voted on it. So how confident are Senate negotiators that any deal that they strike will eventually become law?
DAVIS: There is a lot of skepticism up here for that very reason. I think that's also why today we're hearing a lot of disappointment from immigration activists that Democrats should have held the line on the shutdown and tried to extract more of a commitment from President Trump and from congressional Republicans. Really important to note here - House Speaker Paul Ryan has not committed the House to vote on any of this.
So you know - and without the House commitment, without clarity of where the president is, it's unclear to say where this will land. I will say Democrats are saying they want that deal by February 8. Republicans are saying the real deadline is March 5. That is when President Trump has ordered the DACA program to come to an end.
MCEVERS: NPR congressional correspondent Sue Davis, thanks a lot.
DAVIS: You're welcome.
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