Shutdown Update: Short Term Agreement Made
By Heather Ham-Warren | January 25, 2019
Earlier this week, both chambers of Congress voted on legislation to reopen the federal government. While two initiatives in the House of Representatives passed, two (different) proposals failed in the Senate. After the Senate failed to pass any relevant legislation, it appeared that negotiations had stalled with no end to the shutdown in sight. However, on Friday afternoon President Trump took to the Rose Garden to announce an agreement by both parties, which would include a three week continuing resolution reopening the federal government until February 15.
On Wednesday afternoon, the House voted on two pieces of legislation that would have reopened the federal government, but failed to address any of the numerous funding requests from the White House, including border wall funding. H.J.Res 28, the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019, which passed by a vote of 229-184, provides funding at current levels until February 28; and H.R. 648, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, which passed by a vote of 234-180, provides funding for six appropriations bills (not including homeland security) until the end of the end of the fiscal year in September. However, neither of these bills contain the funding increases requested by President Trump and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On Thursday, the Senate also took up two pieces of legislation to reopen the government. The first—a supplemental appropriations package passed by the House of Representatives last week— would have provided two weeks of continued funding until February 8. However, not only did the proposal lack funding for the president’s barrier, the legislation actually included a House-passed amendment blocking any money from being used to fund the construction of a barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Army Corps of Engineers or DHS.
In addition to the House continuing resolution, the Senate also voted on legislation drafted by the White House that would have addressed the current border crisis. The proposal created a capped in-country asylum processing program for Central American minors, and reallocated State Department funds to establish in-country processing in Northern Triangle consulates and embassies. For this to have the desired humanitarian result, the bill also amended the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to ensure that those who circumvent the process can be promptly repatriated to their home countries. Furthermore, the bill also limited future TPS eligibility to foreigners who are lawfully present at the time of designation— an initiative that has long been supported by FAIR.
Unfortunately, the plan also gave generous concessions to illegal aliens as tradeoffs to build the promised barrier. In exchange for the $5.7 billion in wall funding, with additional money to bolster border security and clear immigration court backlogs, the president’s offer would have guaranteed: three more years of protection to more than 700,000 illegal aliens in the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), giving them access to work permits and Social Security numbers; and three-year waivers of deportation to 300,000 illegal aliens currently protected under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections that will soon expire.
Both pieces of legislation failed in the Senate, and most Americans expected to close out yet another week without reopening the government. That is, until President Trump addressed the nation on Friday afternoon. During his announcement, the president appeared upbeat and optimistic regarding future negotiations, despite having previously vowed not to reopen the government without funding for his promised wall.
“I am very proud to announce we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” he said to applause from gathered Cabinet members. “After 36 days of spirited debate and dialogue, I have seen and heard from enough Democrats and Republicans that they are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first.”
Since the shutdown began, Democrats have refused to negotiate on border security until the federal government was reopened. Following President Trump’s speech, Dan Stein, president of FAIR released the following statement:
“We now have three weeks to find out whether reopening the government was a talking point or a true commitment on the part of congressional Democrats to address a national crisis. Our national illegal immigration and border emergency isn’t going away in three weeks, but that’s enough time to approve the first step of solving the problem by approving the president’s request for wall funding and asylum reform.
“Today’s continuing resolution agreement should also clear the way for the president to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress and the American people. The security of our borders and the integrity of our immigration and asylum process is critical to the state of our union. The president deserves the opportunity to make his case directly to the American people for why a border wall and reforms to our asylum and detention policies are urgently needed.
“The president has acted in good faith to reopen the government. The ball is now in Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s court to demonstrate theirs.”
Please stay tuned to FAIR as we continue to engage lawmakers and the White House.