Texans in Congress Prepare for Government Shutdown Battle Over DACA

WASHINGTON -- The risk of a government shutdown grew Thursday, despite assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan and predictions by several Texas Republicans that lawmakers can reach a funding deal this week.As of Thursday afternoon, the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus insisted Ryan doesn’t have the votes to pass a short-term spending bill. And increasing opposition from Senate Democrats and some Republicans unhappy with inaction on a plan to protect young immigrants in the country illegally from deportation raised the possibility lawmakers won’t reach a deal by Friday's deadline.“The big fight is going to be on the Senate side,” predicted Laredo Rep. Henry Cuellar, a centrist Democrat who said he expects the House will be able to pass the month-long spending bill Thursday evening.A partial shutdown could have far-reaching political implications for both political parties, especially in an election year, as well as real-world impact on everyday life.Not all government functions would grind to a halt. Military personnel, law enforcement and air traffic control workers would report for duty. Mail would be delivered. Social Security checks would be issued, and essential government programs, including Medicare, would continue.But thousands of federal workers could see their pay delayed, regulatory agencies, national parks and museums could close and other non-essential services would stop.Cuellar, who represents a border community, said he doesn’t “believe in shutdowns” but wants to see if House Republicans can provide enough votes for its passage.“They’re in the majority and they should be able to govern on that,” he said. “But if it comes down to a determinant vote to shut down the government, I’m not going to do it.”The House is scheduled to vote Thursday evening on its fourth consecutive stopgap spending measure to keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16.In a bid to entice Democrats' support -- or hammer them for lack of it -- House Speaker Paul Ryan included a six-year extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, into the measure. The legislation would also delay a few Affordable Care Act taxes.A handful of Texas Republicans, such as Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Clarendon Rep. Mac Thornberry, have voted against previous continuing resolutions for a variety of reasons.But given the tight margins, Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, predicted a higher number of Lone Star members will support the package Thursday evening.“And you’ll probably see a lot more Democrats, because I think some of them are going to have a hard time voting against CHIP,” he said, foreshadowing the blame game if Democrats oppose the measure.Funding CHIP for six years is a “step in the right direction,” said Fort Worth Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat who said he’s likely to vote “no” on the measure. “There are many other things that they are falling short on. They need to work with us to help figure that out.”Top of the list: Democrats want a resolution to the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which President Donald Trump moved to phase out by March.Congressional Democrats, and some Republicans, wanted to see a legislative fix to that program in this spending measure, and many have said they’ll oppose it without one.“If there is a shutdown, it will have the same cause as any prior shutdown, and that’s Republican intransigence,” said Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat who plans to vote against the stopgap bill. “I am for keeping the government open for everyone, but that has to include our Dreamers along with the rest of us.”A bipartisan group of senators hoped their proposal to give the nearly 800,000 young immigrants a path to citizenship, boost border security measures, eliminate the visa lottery and make other changes to the immigration system would gain traction this week.Backed mostly by Democrats, they worry that if Congress doesn’t act on a DACA fix now, it will fail to by the program’s end in March."If this bill passes, there'll be no incentive to negotiate and we'll be right back here in a month with the same problems at our feet," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "Eventually, we need to make progress on the biggest issues before us."But GOP leaders, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, have resisted taking up the “Gang of Six” plan due to lack of White House support. They insist they will within the next six weeks but have fought to keep the issue separate from the stopgap measure.Along with Trump, they’re poised to blame Democrats for a potential shutdown, though a handful of Republican senators have also said they’ll oppose the stopgap bill.Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority and need 60 votes to pass the spending bill. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds have indicated they’ll vote against the stopgap measure. Still, “We don’t need a #SchumerShutdown,” Cornyn tweeted on Thursday.  Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us