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Federal Government Shutdown Looms in 72 Hours

- By Sidney Shank, Staff Writer -

The U.S. federal government shut down on Thursday, Feb. 8, for the second time this year — but it happened so fast, you probably missed it. From midnight until the early hours of Friday morning, the government briefly shut down over the federal budget after the continuing resolution passed on Jan. 23 ran out. However, legislators managed to pass the bill quickly through both chambers on Friday morning; the House voted before dawn, and the Senate shortly afterwards, so the bill was signed into law by the president before work began for most government employees Friday morning. The bipartisan budget deal includes increases to both military funding, domestic social programs, and disaster relief aid as well as raises the debt ceiling, which was set to run out next month.

Republicans in both the House and the Senate created spending bills in the week preceding the shutdown, but the Senate version was ultimately successful. Senate Republicans introduced a version of the bill that included increases in military and domestic spending as well as addressing the looming debt ceiling. The bill is the result of a bipartisan collaboration between Arizona Senator John McCain (R) and Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D). It is the Senate response to a piece of legislation introduced in the House just before the shutdown in January, the Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act.

The bill introduced by House Republicans was much narrower: it would have kept the government open until March 23 and the Pentagon open for a full year. The House bill, however, did not have the bipartisan support needed to pass both chambers of the legislature. More than 40 Senate Democrats condemned it in the days leading up to the shutdown, indicating that, even if it did manage to pass the House, it would not pass the Senate.

While the budget is a major bipartisan success, Democrats worry that they have lost their leverage in pushing for an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In a statement published after her historic, more-than-eight-hours-long speech on the House floor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called out Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Republican Party more generally for leaving a DACA solution out of the budget bill: “When we protect the Dreamers, we honor the highest ideals of America. Their patriotism, their perseverance, their optimism are an inspiration that stirs the conscience of our entire nation.” While House Republicans have not announced an intention to address a DACA solution, Senate Republicans have promised to allow for uninterrupted debate on the issue beginning Monday, Feb. 12. The debate will allow the Senate to build a bipartisan bill from scratch on the Senate floor. Speaking last week to reporters outside the legislature about the uninterrupted DACA debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) described the process as, “Whoever gets to 60 [votes] wins.”


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