Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell announce a deal to re-open the government after a three-day standoff.
The Senate has enough votes to move forward on a plan to end the government shutdown, after Democrats accepted a GOP pledge to hold a vote on immigration legislation in the coming weeks.
The bill, which would fund the government through Feb. 8, is expected to be passed by the Senate and the House today, and quickly signed into law by President Donald Trump.
In a dramatic turnaround, Senate Democrats said they would vote to re-open the government on Monday after receiving a commitment from Republicans to hold a vote on immigration legislation — paving the way to end the three-day shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to end the shutdown and fund the government through Feb. 8 while continuing to negotiate on immigration and spending matters. Without a broader deal, the Senate would take up legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who are losing legal protections, as long as the government remains open.
“The process will be neutral and fair to all sides,” Schumer said. “We expect that a bipartisan bill on [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] will receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor.”
Democrats had been deeply skeptical of McConnell’s commitment, but indicated after a party strategizing session that they’re willing to trust the majority leader.
“I’m encouraged by commitments Leader McConnell has made,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, emerging from the meeting. “I’m looking forward to the vote and I think it will be important that we take a step forward.”
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said that Democratic leaders faced a “practical question … Are you going to achieve more by holding out?” or by accepting McConnell’s offer.
Earlier, McConnell had stressed that Senate can’t advance immigration bills until the government was operating again.
A group of Democrats huddled with McConnell on the Senate floor after his remarks and before each party held private meetings that determined the outcome of Monday’s vote.
Democrats, feeling burned about the House neglecting the Senate’s immigration bill in 2013, had wanted a more ironclad commitment from GOP leaders to take up a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has given legal protections to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.
That commitment ultimately appeared to be enough to persuade enough Democrats on board.
But it’s looking unlikely that Democrats will get one, at least for now. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) defended McConnell as a “trustworthy, honorable person” and said Democrats should take the Kentucky Republican at his word.
“I realize there’s a trust deficit up here generally, but I think one of the first steps to regaining that trust is for the leader to make that commitment and follow through on it,” Cornyn said, adding that McConnell’s oral pledge to Democrats is “all they’re gonna get.”
A group of Democrats who consult regularly with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — filed into Schumer’s office before the Senate opened, trying to make sense of the last 24 hours.
“There’s been a lot of positive progress made,” Stabenow said. “No one wants to shut down the government.”
Added Tester, who wants commitments from McConnell to work on community health centers: “I believe a man’s word is his bond, so I’m going to take McConnell the same way.”
Top lawmakers had started to fear the two parties may become so entrenched that the shutdown could drag on for days. They believe that until one side gains a clear advantage in public opinion, leaders will see no need to back down.
“If not today, then I’m not sure,” said a senior House Republican.
“I think you’d have to ask Sen. Schumer that,” Cornyn said of what happens if the noon vote fails. “I don’t know. I don’t know what else they can reasonably ask for.”
A bipartisan group of senators, mostly moderate, met Monday for the third straight day and signaled that they might be close to agreement on a way forward that could include postponing the midday vote.
GOP leaders in both Congress and the White House want nothing to do with immigration negotiations as long as the federal government’s doors are closed.
“The Democrats are turning down services and security for citizens in favor of services and security for non-citizens. Not good!” President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don’t want to do it but are powerless!”
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Monday morning on Fox that the president has no plans to meet with Schumer.
At least two senators who rejected a four-week spending measure early Saturday morning that prompted the government shutdown now say they will support the three-week stopgap: GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. But two other Republicans — Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah — have consistently opposed short-term spending bills.
Five Senate Democrats helped advance the four-week spending measure, which also includes a six-year funding renewal of a popular children’s health insurance program. That means McConnell would need at least seven Senate Democrats who voted against a four-week bill to flip and back a three-week measure.
House GOP leaders met early Monday morning, and the full Republican conference is set to huddle later. No votes are are planned at this time. Meanwhile, House Democrats are waiting to see what happens in the Senate, but don’t favor McConnell’s plan because they don’t believe Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would bring up a Senate-passed immigration bill in their chamber.
Both Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were urging Democrats to vote “no” during a private leadership meeting shortly before the Senate vote.
Nonetheless, Ryan pledged Monday morning that if the Senate could successfully send the House a three-week funding measure, his lawmakers will quickly pass it.
“What we’re saying is, open the government and then we’ll get back to the negotiations [that] were already underway that they blew up when they shut the government down,” Ryan said Monday on “Fox and Friends.”
Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan, Rebecca Morin and Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.