your e… The government shutdown: How Northern Michigan lawmakers responded
Democrats ended their delaying tactics against a bill to fund federal agencies through Feb. 8. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says in exchange, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to begin debating immigration policy by that date.
McConnell says the end to the standoff shows “the American people didn’t understand” why Democrats shut down the government because they wanted to help “illegal immigrants.”
In a statement after the vote, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, was optimistic about the progress on Monday toward a long-term budget.
“We have reached a bipartisan agreement that funds children’s health insurance and moves us closer to a solution that provides long-term certainty for Michigan families and our national defense,” Stabenow said. “My focus remains bringing Republicans and Democrats together to pass a long-term budget that funds our community health centers, improves health care for our veterans, provides pension protections, and addresses other critical priorities for Michigan.”
Schumer lent his backing to the agreement during a speech on the chamber’s floor.
“Now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate,” he said of legislation to halt any deportation efforts aimed at “Dreamers,” who were brought to the country as minors and are now here illegally.
U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, blamed Senate Democrats for the government shutdown.
“There is absolutely nothing in this short-term spending bill that democrats philosophically disagree with. Senate Democrats are just playing games. #SchumerShutdown,” Bergman tweeted before the Senate voted on Monday.
Bergman and others voted in favor of a funding bill on Friday. But Senate Democrats blocked the temporary government-wide funding bill that night, demanding progress on legislation to protect about 700,000 so-called Dreamer immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, established under President Obama, offered provisions for such immigrants to defer deportation action, but President Trump last September announced plans to rescind it as of March 2018.
Four Republicans opposed the House-passed plan in the Senate Friday night. The measure gained 50 votes to proceed and 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster.
In a statement sent Sunday, Bergman stated, “Democrats in Congress needs to stop playing games with our national security, Veterans, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
“The failure to fund our government is unacceptable and puts thousands of low income children at risk in Michigan’s First District,” Bergman said.
President Donald Trump on Monday accused Democrats of prioritizing services and security for non-citizens over U.S. citizens. “Not good,” his first tweet said. In a second tweet, he said, “Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don’t want to do it but are powerless!”
After the vote, Trump says he is pleased that congressional Democrats “have come to their senses” and abandoned their filibuster that shut down the federal government. Trump says his administration will make a long-term immigration deal “if and only if it’s good for our country.”
Democrats are facing intense pressure from their base to solve the issue over the young immigrants and they have been skeptical of Republicans’ credibility when offering to take up the issue. Whether Trump would back the emerging plan or any later proposal on immigration is an open question.
Although they initially dug in on a demand for an immigration deal, Democrats had shifted to blaming the shutdown on the incompetence of Republicans and Trump, seemingly sensitive to being seen by voters as willing to tie up government operations over policy toward immigrants.
Bergman said fixing the immigration system is important to him, but added that he saw it as unnecessary to tie a government funding extension to a DACA update. He said there have been good-faith efforts to craft a legislative solution for DACA before the March deadline.
“The number-one priority of Congress is to fund the federal government. Yet Friday night, Democrats in the Senate recklessly decided to undermine our process and shut down the government over an unrelated DACA and border security issue,” Bergman said.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, was part of a bipartisan group of 22 senators who met Sunday in the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to work toward a consensus agreement on reopening the government, a Peters spokeswoman told the Detroit News.
After Monday’s vote, Peters said on his Twitter page he is pleased with the work of the bipartisan group, but lawmakers still need to work together to address other issues, including a budget that benefits Michigan families and addresses the opioid crisis.
“We have to make sure we are taking care of children’s health care. We have to also make sure our federal health care clinics that provide care for 600,000 Michiganders are reauthorized. We have to deal with DACA, but we have to do it in a bipartisan way,” Peters said in a video he posted on his public social media accounts on Sunday.
Stabenow, who is up for re-election this year, has been blasted in press releases from the Michigan Republican Party. The organization said “she chose to put her party over her state ” and “voted against the people of Michigan, and against her own principles, all to participate in a partisan political stunt.”
Stabenow posted on her social media accounts on Saturday. “The Children’s Health Insurance Program (also known as CHIP) and Community Health Centers throughout Michigan work together to provide the medical care that many Michigan children and families need. Both need long-term funding and I am committed to making that happen!”
The senator included a video of her remarks about those two issues on the Senate floor. In those comments, she added many people who benefit from CHIP receive their medical care from community health centers.
“It’s deeply concerning that those two pieces (CHIP and Community Health Centers) of health care for families would somehow be divided and pitted against each other,” Stabenow said on the Senate floor.
Stabenow added a bipartisan bill concerning children’s health care was passed out of committee months ago. Lawmakers involved in the measure assumed they would bring children’s health insurance to the floor immediately and combine it with funding for community health centers, she said.
Both Bergman and Stabenow have taken steps in support of freezing lawmakers’ pay during government shutdowns.
Bergman noted that he, along with U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New York, co-sponsored a measure on Friday dubbed the No Work, No Pay Act of 2018. This would require Congress to work full time with no salary in the event of a government shutdown until they pass a bill to fund the government.
The congressman also vowed to give pay accrued during the government shutdown to a charity benefiting veterans.
“The American people have had enough of the partisan games. It’s time to get the job done for the citizens of our country. If we can’t do that, we don’t deserve to get paid,” Bergman said.
Stabenow, along with four other senators, introduced legislation named the No Government No Pay Act of 2018 on Friday to withhold lawmakers’ pay during a government shutdown. In a statement, Stabenow said even if the legislation does not pass; she will donate her pay every day there is a shutdown.
Congress is barred by the U.S. Constitution’s 27th Amendment from raising or lowering its pay for its current session. Therefore, the bill would take effect during the 116th Congress (convening in 2019) and every future Congress, a press release notes.
“It’s wrong that Members of Congress would still get paid in the event of a shutdown while paychecks for members of our military could be disrupted,” Stabenow said in a statement on Friday. “This bill ensures Members of Congress will not get paid and another bill I have cosponsored makes sure our troops will. ”
Stabenow’s spokesperson said the legislation Stabenow introduced about lawmakers’ pay is different from the bill co-sponsored by Bergman, but it’s the same concept.
As of press time, Peters’ office had not responded to numerous requests from the News-Review for comment on shutdown-related matters.