U.S. government shuts down amid Senate stalemate over DACA


The U.S. government shut down early Saturday morning after Congress and the president could not come to an agreement on how to continue funding. 

Late Friday night, a House funding resolution died in the U.S. Senate when Senate Republican leaders could not convince enough Democrats — and members of their own ranks — to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to keep the government running overnight. 

The central contention over the short-term spending bill was a Democratic call to include legal protections for immigrants who came to the United States as children. 

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn spent most of Friday in the middle of negotiations in his capacity as the Senate majority whip. 

The shutdown comes after a roiling two weeks of negotiating and public fighting between congressional Republicans and Democrats and President Donald Trump. 

The development means that many government services will soon likely not be available to Texans. In past shutdowns, national parks in Texas have closed and the public has faced difficulties accessing government programs.

At the same time, Social Security checks will still be mailed, and the government will continue with services that support public safety and national security.

On Friday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for the impasse.

Republicans had wanted to keep the government running for another four weeks while reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six more years. Democrats were pushing to address the shaky legal status of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as “Dreamers.”

The impasse, no matter the outcome, had big implications for Texas. About 394,000 Texas children who are ineligible for Medicaid – the joint state-federal health insurer of last resort — are covered under CHIP, and another 249,000 Texas children on Medicaid benefit from CHIP. About 124,000 Texans are covered under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Democrats charged that Republicans have a majority in both chambers and have ownership over a functioning government. And they further argued that Trump has so poisoned the discourse over immigration that the spending bill was a last resort of leverage to prevent the mass deportation of participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Republicans, particularly from Texas, were equally furious. They argued that while resolving DACA was not addressed, they were willing to deal on another long-stalled Democratic priority – the Children’s Health Insurance Program – in exchange for another short-term spending resolution.

Cornyn took to Twitter all day with Democratic criticism. 

guarantees more not less continuing spending resolutions,” he wrote, referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “His crocodile tears for military a transparent attempt to deflect from fact he and Ds prioritize debate about illegal immigration over funding the military and the Children’s Health Insurance program.” 

The lead-up to the shutdown was a frenzy of activity.

House Republicans typically rely on some Democratic votes to pass spending bills that are moderate enough to pass the Senate chamber as well. But this time, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pulled her caucus’ support unless a spending bill resolved contention over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

While Republicans hold majorities in both chambers, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan frequently struggles to garner support from the conservative wing of his conference  – as did his predecessor, John Boehner. On the Senate side, Republicans could not pass the spending legislation without some Democratic support. 

On Thursday night, the U.S. House passed a resolution to keep the government’s doors open for another month. Republicans mostly supported that legislation, but a few Democrats also supported the measure, including two Texans, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen. 

The two most recent shutdowns occurred in 1995 and 2013. 

The shutdown comes as DACA’s future remains in a complicated legal limbo. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in October that the initiative would end in March. But earlier this month, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled the program would stand while a legal challenge, filed by the state of California, proceeds. Soon after, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it would once again begin accepting renewal applications — but not new ones. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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