Gov’t shuts down; Dems and Republicans blame each other — COLORADO REACTION

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WASHINGTON | Americans awoke Saturday to learn that bickering politicians in Washington had failed to keep their government in business, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

It was a striking display of Washington dysfunction, and the finger-pointing came quickly. Trump tweeted that Democrats “wanted to give me a nice present” to mark the start of his second year in office.

Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet voted against the resolution. Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner voted for it.

While Bennet had balked about the House measure not addressing so-called DACA kids or Dreamers, at the end he was most critical about continuing to govern without a long-term budget and plan.

“This is no way to run our government,” Bennet said in a statement after the House measure failed just before midnight Saturday.  “In the last 10 years I’ve been in the Senate, we have passed 36 temporary budget extensions. Tonight’s would have been the 37th such half measure. Another four-week continuing resolution would put us right back in the same position. Our own Department of Defense has made it abundantly clear how damaging these resolutions are to our military’s ability to train and maintain its readiness to fight and protect our nation.”

Bennet said, however, that it was clear President Trump’s actions on DACA put that program in jeopardy, and passing the House measure would facilitate that.

“Without a strategy, the President chose to end the DACA protections and urged Congress to legislate a solution,” Bennet said. “In response, a bipartisan group of senators worked for months and reached an agreement to protect the Dreamers. This should be part of any long-term budget package.”

Gardner said he was willing to overlook the absence of a DACA deal in the House measure, saying it did address another critical issue of government health insurance for children of poorer families.

“Opposing this funding legislation is support for a government shutdown,” Gardner said in a statement. “I believe that approach is unacceptable for Coloradans. I voted to keep the government open because our military, veterans, children’s health insurance programs, and fundamental government services like opioid treatment centers should not be held hostage for political reasons. I will continue to work with any of my colleagues who are interested in finding a long-term solution to fund our government.”

Gardner said he supports legislation addressing the DACA issue, but didn’t believe it was fodder for shutting down the government.

“I will also continue to work with members on both sides of the aisle to gain support for bipartisan immigration reform that includes border security measures and protections for Dreamers, but shutting down the government over the issue won’t get us closer to a solution.”

 Last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century. The slide toward closure lacked for high drama: The Senate vote was all but predetermined, and since the shutdown began at the start of a weekend, many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans.

Still, it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for the president and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.

COLORADO REACTION:

 

The Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin considering a three-week version of a short-term spending measure and to broadcast to the people they serve that they were at work as the closure commenced. It seemed likely that each side would push for votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies.

The fourth government shutdown in a quarter-century began at the stroke of midnight Friday, last-gasp negotiations crumbling when Senate Democrats blocked a four-week budget extension. Behind the scenes, however, leading Republicans and Democrats were trying to work out a compromise to avert a lengthy shutdown.

The closure began at the start of a weekend, so many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans. Damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged. And it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for Trump and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.

Trump said Democrats “could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead.” In a series of tweets hours after the shutdown began, the president tried to make the case for Americans to elect more Republicans to Congress in November “in order to power through this mess.” He noted that there are 51 Republicans in the 100-member Senate, and it often takes 60 votes to advance legislation.

Reinforcing the president’s position, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Saturday that Trump will not negotiate immigration policy with Congress until the shutdown ends. The bill that failed in the Senate did not include protection for certain immigrants living illegally in the country, as Democrats had demanded as a condition for their support.

“We are not going to negotiate … immigration until this government’s open,” Gidley told reporters at the White House.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Saturday on the House floor that Trump had earned an F for “failure in leadership.” She said Republicans are “so incompetent and negligent that they couldn’t get it together to keep the government open.”

Social Security and most other safety-net programs are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late Friday night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

Democrats balked in an effort to put pressure on the White House to cut a deal to protect immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally — commonly called “Dreamers” — before their legal protection runs out in March.

Democrats are laying fault for the shutdown on Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House and have struggled with building internal consensus. Republicans are holding Democrats responsible after they declined to provide the votes needed to overcome a filibuster over their desire to force the passage of legislation to protect some 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

“Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous” border with Mexico, Trump tweeted.

Republicans branded the confrontation a “Schumer shutdown,” after New York’s Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader. He said a “Trump shutdown” was more accurate.

Earlier Friday, Trump had brought Schumer to the White House in hopes of cutting a deal on a short-term spending agreement.

The two New Yorkers, who pride themselves on their negotiating abilities, started talking over cheeseburgers about a larger agreement that would have included greater military spending and money for a Southern border wall. But the talks fell apart almost as abruptly as they started.

Nonetheless, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney predicted a deal would be reached by Monday, when most government offices are to reopen after the weekend.

Trump had been an unreliable negotiator in the weeks leading up to the showdown. Earlier this week he tweeted opposition to the four-week plan, forcing the White House to later affirm his support. He expressed openness to extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, only to reject a bipartisan proposal. His disparaging remarks about African and Haitian immigrants last week helped derail further negotiations.

Trump had been set to leave Friday afternoon to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate marking the inauguration anniversary but delayed his travel.

The last shutdown came in 2013. Tea party Republicans, in a strategy not unlike the one Schumer is employing now, sought to use a must-pass budget bill to try to force President Barack Obama to delay implementation of his health care law. At the time, Trump told “Fox & Friends” that the ultimate blame for a shutdown lies at the top. “I really think the pressure is on the president,” he said.

Arguing that Trump’s predecessors “weaponized” that shutdown, Mulvaney said his budget office would direct agencies to work to mitigate the impact this time. That position is a striking role reversal for the conservative former congressman who was one of the architects of the 2013 shutdown.