By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a continuing resolution funding the federal government moving forward.
While both parties agree that the government should continue to be funded, the two parties are divided on the issue of immigration. Democrats want the children brought by their parents who crossed the border illegally given legal status and a pathway to American citizenship.
When Congress did not pass the DREAM Act in 2012, President Barack Obama gave the children of immigrants who crossed the border illegally deferred action on immigration enforcement, or DACA, via an executive order. President Donald Trump is letting that program expire in March.
Conservative Republicans in the House, particularly the Freedom Caucus, are refusing to pass that without also passing border security improvements, including a border wall. To force Republicans to cave in to their demands on immigration, Senate Democrats orchestrated the government shutdown.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that Republicans will not negotiate on DACA while the government is shut down.
A number of Alabama Congress members reacted to the shutdown.
“One of the fundamental purposes of our government is to provide for the common defense to protect our liberties,” Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said. “Unfortunately, Democrats chose illegal immigrants over our brave men and women who serve in uniform and forced our government to shut down. Their actions also hurt children across East Alabama and the country that rely on CHIP. Playing politics with those who defend our freedom and the health care of the kids who need it the most is unconscionable to me.”
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., said, “While I continue to have serious concerns with short-term funding measures, I still voted in favor of the Continuing Resolution this week in the House because I believe it is critical that we keep the government open and running, especially as it relates to our military and reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). I am deeply disappointed that Senate Democrats chose to let the government shut down over an unrelated immigration issue that does not have an immediate deadline.”
“My congressional offices will remain open to serve the needs of those I represent. I will continue working with my colleagues to work towards a solution to properly fund our government,” Roby said.
“The so-called ‘resistance’ and Senate Democrats have shut down the entire federal government and put health care for over 85,000 Alabama children at risk over an unrelated illegal immigration issue,” Congressman Byrne, R-Ala., said. “This is petty and ridiculous, and I call on Senate Democrats to stop with the political games, come back to the negotiating table, and join us in passing a funding bill.”
Byrne’s office said that the Republican controlled House passed a bill to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, funding for 6 years and fund the remainder of the federal government through Feb. 16, 2018. Senate Democrats blocked that bill last night in the Senate, causing a government shutdown.
CHIP is administered by the states and without federal funding the states, including Alabama, will be forced to make hard decisions on whether or not they can continue to provide health insurance for the lower income children.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said, “I am disappointed in Senate Democratic Leadership in Washington for their failure to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government. I have been in contact with Alabama’s Congressional Delegation and stressed the importance of avoiding a government shutdown. Although the shutdown should be ended quickly, so that important government services including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are funded, a shutdown will have no immediate impact on current state services. The business of Alabama state government will continue as usual, despite the inaction of liberal politicians in Washington.”
Congressman Byrne’s office said that it will remain open throughout the government shutdown to answer constituent questions and work to end the #SchumerShutdown.
While the uniformed military are instructed to stay on their jobs, half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees will be furloughed as early as Monday. Hundreds of thousands of non-essential federal workers are being told not to report on Monday unless a C.R. is passed. A government shutdown will occur in stages. While the military and civilian federal workers might have their pay delayed during the shutdown, members of Congress will continue to draw their pay, as by law they are considered “essential.”
While Republicans are blaming Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Senate Democrats for the shutdown; Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, is blaming Republicans and President Donald Trump.
Sewell said, “The GOP own this #TrumpShutdown! Republicans controls Congress and the White House! #DoYourJob! I’m here in DC ready to work!!! My Alabama kids need CHIP reauthorized permanently!! GOP let it expire since Sept 30!!! Now they want to claim they are saving it!! Ridiculous!”
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, was one of five Democratic senators who voted with the Republicans to end the debate on a short-term government funding bill. 60 votes were needed to advance the bill to a final vote in the Senate. The vote tally was 50 – 49.
Four Republicans opposed the C.R. and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is absent for treatment for his brain cancer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted with the Democrats when it was apparent that he would not prevail, so procedurally, he can make a motion to reconsider the vote.
“Today, I voted to keep the federal government open past midnight tonight and to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program – finally – for six more years,” Jones said in a statement. “Let me be clear: millions of our most vulnerable young Americans have been used as political pawns in this process, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program sat in limbo for four months leading up to this debate. At the end of the day, we all know this is not how government is supposed to run but I made a commitment to more than 150,000 children and their families who depend on Alabama’s CHIP program, ALL Kids. Because of CHIP and the many families in Alabama and around our country that would be put in jeopardy by a government shutdown, I felt compelled to vote yes.”
Jones said, “We need a long-term budget in place that reflects our values and we know that this bill falls short. Among other things, this short-term bill failed to provide a lifeline for health care access in rural communities, did not fully address the opioid epidemic or the looming crisis with pensions, did not protect DREAMers, and did not fully fund our military. We have a responsibility to put the interests of the people before partisan in-fighting and I remain hopeful that we can find common ground and end this shutdown immediately.”
Trump is calling senators and congressional leaders in an attempt to craft a compromise settlement.