DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Congress sped toward reopening the government Monday, as Senate Democrats dropped their objections to a temporary funding bill in return for assurances from Republicans leaders that they will soon take up immigration and other contentious issues.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to quickly tackle the issue of immigrant “Dreamers” was contingent on Democrats providing enough votes now for a stopgap spending measure lasting a little less than three weeks.
The measure needed 60 votes, and Democrats provided 33 of the 81 it received. Eighteen senators, including members of both parties, were opposed.
In Utah, the Republican senators were split, with Sen. Mike Lee opposing the measure, while Sen. Orrin Hatch supported it.
Before the government can reopen the Senate must vote on final passage, the House must approve in turn and President Donald Trump must sign the measure.
Democrats climbed on board after two days of negotiations that ended with new reassurances from McConnell that the Senate would consider immigration proposals in the coming weeks.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck 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 children and are now here illegally.
The White House downplayed McConnell’s commitment and said Democrats caved under pressure.
“They blinked,” Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told CNN. And following Monday’s vote, Trump released a statement saying he was pleased congressional Democrats “have come to their senses.”
Earlier Monday, McConnell raised hopes for a quick end to the shutdown, saying “I hope and intend” to reach agreement soon on immigration and other contentious issues – if the Democrats agreed to the stopgap spending measure lasting a little less than three weeks.
A block of liberal Democrats – some of them 2020 presidential hopefuls – stuck to their opposition.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey voted no, as did independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Feinstein said she wasn’t persuaded by McConnell’s assurances and did not know how a proposal to protect the more than 700,000 younger immigrants would fare in the House.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told “Fox and Friends” Monday that if the Senate approved a temporary spending bill to reopen the government through Feb. 8, the House would also approve it.
The Senate vote came as most government offices cut back drastically or even closed on Monday, as the major effects of the shutdown were first being felt with the beginning of the workweek.
McConnell said he hoped to reach bipartisan solutions on immigration, border security, disaster aid, military funding and more by Feb. 8. If not, he said, “it would be my intention to take up legislation” addressing those issues.
The Senate over the weekend inched closer but ultimately fell short of a deal that could have reopened the government before the beginning of the workweek. McConnell and Schumer said negotiations lasted late into the night.
On Sunday night, Democrats appeared to be holding out for a firmer commitment from McConnell.
“We have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward,” Schumer said then.
There were hours of behind-the-scenes talks over the weekend between the leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers over how to end the display of legislative dysfunction, which began at midnight Friday after Democrats blocked a temporary spending measure. Democrats have sought to use the spending bill to win concessions, including protections for roughly 700,000 younger immigrants.
Trump, who regularly disrupted negotiations in recent weeks, had been a relatively subdued player in the weekend debate. He has not appeared in public since Friday afternoon. The White House said he was in regular contact with Republican leaders, but he has not reached out to any Democrats, a White House official said.
Democrats are facing intense pressure from their base to solve the issue over the young immigrants, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” and they are 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.
In his statement following the Senate vote, Trump said that once the government is funded, “my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration.”
He added: “We will make a long term deal on immigration if and only if it’s good for our country.”
While lawmakers feuded, signs of the shutdown were evident at national parks and in some federal agencies. Social Security and most other safety-net programs were unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions continued, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay.
Written by ALAN FRAM, ANDREW TAYLOR and ZEKE MILLER of The Associated Press. Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.
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