Senate moves to end U.S. shutdown, sets up immigration fight

The Senate moved to end the U.S. government shutdown after three days by advancing a temporary spending bill and agreeing to consider a politically charged immigration proposal that promises another intense partisan fight within weeks.

The impasse broke Monday as Democrats accepted a deal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that would fund the government through February 8. In exchange, McConnell agreed to address Democratic demands that Congress quickly restore protections against deportation to young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, which advocates call "dreamers."

The agreement paves the way to reopen government offices as soon as Tuesday. The Senate still must take a final vote on the measure, which also must be passed by the House and signed by the President. And it set the clock for a showdown between Republicans and Democrats on immigration, one that could potentially end in another standoff over spending.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the dreamers from being deported,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, underscoring the impending deadline.

The spending agreement included a provision to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program and delay certain Affordable Care Act taxes, including the medical device tax, the Cadillac tax and the health insurance tax, with the health insurance tax delay postponed until 2019.

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Congress is expected to include funding for other health measures by February 8, including retroactive funding for community health centers and Medicare programs for hospitals, disaster aid, disproportionate-share hospital payments and money for the opioid epidemic.

Democrats ultimately accepted McConnell’s commitment that if party leaders and the White House cannot reach a compromise on immigration beforehand, it’s his “intention” to permit a Senate a vote on an immigration measure after February 8. With that assurance, the Senate voted 81-18 in favor of advancing the funding measure.

Monday’s bargain only postpones a reckoning on deep divisions among the two parties, conservatives in the House and President Donald Trump. The president and Republican conservatives have demanded than any immigration deal include funding for Trump’s signature border wall and changes in immigration laws to end visa preferences for family members of U.S. citizens, which Trump disparages as “chain migration.”

Democrats, and some Republicans, wanted language protecting people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, as part of the spending bill to ensure it became law. Some Republicans have opposed such a move, calling it amnesty.

Bloomberg News