Friday 20 July 2018

Democrats vote to end shutdown after pledge over US 'Dreamers'

Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Reuters
Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Reuters

Ben Riley-Smith and Rozina Sabur

America's government is set to reopen today after Democratic senators "blinked first" and agreed to end a three-day shutdown.

The country's opposition party had been demanding an explicit pledge to protect young undocumented migrants but settled for a promise of new legislation instead.

The Senate voted 81 to 18 to fund the government until February 8, allowing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to get back to work today.

However, it is only a stopgap measure, and Republicans and Democrats now have 16 days to reach an agreement on spending and immigration before another shutdown takes place.

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, announced the party's change of heart on the Congress floor moments before a vote on ending the shutdown.

"We will vote today to reopen the government," Mr Schumer said, citing a promise of a bipartisan bill to protect 'Dreamer' migrants that would be tabled in the coming weeks.

He added: "President Trump's unwillingness to compromise caused the Trump shutdown and brought us to this moment... The great deal-making president sat on the sidelines."

However, the White House and senior Republicans suggested Mr Schumer had caved in, changing his stance on the shutdown despite being offered little in return.

Mr Trump said: "I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses", adding that he would only support an immigration deal if it was "good for our country".

Evidence

Raj Shah, the White House deputy press secretary, said: "The fact that they're voting in favour of this proposal that they rejected a few days ago is evidence that they blinked."

The government shutdown, which comes when Congress fails to agree on spending plans, started at midnight on Friday - the first time it has happened since 2013. The Democrats then voted against a measure that would have kept the government open for a month and extended a child health insurance programme by six years.

Senior figures had argued that Republicans needed to promise to protect the 700,000 'Dreamer' migrants brought to the country illegally as children if they wanted to win their vote.

However, yesterday the Democratic leadership decided to support a similar measure to the one previously tabled. It would reopen government for less than three weeks while extending the same child health programme.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, agreed to table immigration legislation on a bipartisan basis in the coming weeks - but made no promise about its contents.

All eyes will now be on Mr Trump to see if he will say where he stands on the Dreamers after weeks of mixed signals.

After some uncertainty, the vote means that Mr Trump's visit to World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, will go ahead as planned.

He is set to make a speech to business and political leaders later this week.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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