Senate votes to end government shutdown
Earlier today, the Senate voted 81-18 to end the three-day old government shutdown. Democrats and Republicans joined together to approve a temporary package to fund the government until February 8th, with the promise from Republican lawmakers to address the fate of undocumented immigrants whom have been designated as ‘Dreamers’. While this vote does not end the government shutdown immediately, it is a good sign that it will be passed in the House of Representatives this afternoon.
This marks a rare show of bipartisanship as both sides of the political spectrum were slinging the blame to their opposing side. Democrats were calling it the “Trump shutdown” while Republicans were calling it the “Schumer shutdown” after Senator Chuck Shumer, the Senate Minority Leader.
Senator Schumer took the floor this afternoon, and announced that he and Senator Mitch McConnel of Kentucky, the Senate Majority Leader, had “come to an arrangement” to put the three-week funding measure to a vote. Senator McConnel has promised to allow a “free and open debate” on immigration next month, tackling the problem of undocumented immigrant children facing the possibility of being deported. This morning, Senator McConnell argued passionately ““Every day we spend arguing about keeping the lights on is another day we cannot spend negotiating DACA or defense spending or any of our other shared priorities.” He continued on, promising “a level playing field at the outset and an amendment process that is fair to all sides.”
Just this morning, hundreds of thousands of federal workers were faced with the reality of not having a job for the time being, with many being asked not to come into work at all. While essential services are still available during a government shutdown, most must deal with being furloughed until Congress votes to fund the government more. The last time the government was shutdown was in 2013, during Barack Obama’s presidency. That year was decidedly worse than this time, with 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees being furloughed.
Many federal departments have contingency plans in the event the government shuts down due to lack of funding. The Department of Education plan states that 90 percent of the total 3,912 person staff would be furloughed during the first week of a shutdown, with no more than 6 percent of the staff able to be called back in. The Department of Housing and Development is another example of a hard-hit department in the event of a shutdown. Only 330 employees of a total 7,800 are exempt, putting thousands out of work as well.
President Trump was expected to be celebrating the anniversary of his inauguration at his Mar-A-Lago resort, but instead decided to stay in the White House until a deal was met. Anyone that tried to call the White House constituent line was met with a rather pointed voicemail stating the following:
“Thank you for calling the White House. Unfortunately we cannot answer your call today because Congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down,” said an automated message from the White House’s comment line. “We look forward to taking your calls as soon as the government reopens.”