Senate faces showdown over immigration and ‘Dreamers’

Demonstrators calling for new protections for so-called "Dreamers," undocumented children brought to the U.S. by their immigrant parents, walk through a senate office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration remained insistent on hardline immigration measures on Thursday as the U.S. Senate prepared to vote on various legislative proposals to protect young “Dreamer” immigrants and to tighten border security.

In a statement overnight, the Department of Homeland Security dismissed what some thought was the bill most likely to win enough bipartisan support to pass the chamber, saying it failed to meet minimum criteria set out by President Donald Trump.

The plan, crafted by a bipartisan group of senators led by moderate Republican Susan Collins, would protect from deportation 1.8 million young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children and who are known as Dreamers.

It also includes a $25 billion fund to strengthen border security and possibly even construct segments of Trump’s long-promised border wall with Mexico.

The immigration issue has become a matter of urgency for lawmakers after Trump in September ordered an Obama-era program that protected Dreamers to end by March 5, telling Congress it should come up with a solution by then.

The Department of Homeland Security blasted the Collins-led plan, saying it destroyed the ability of DHS officers to remove millions of undocumented immigrants from the country, and “is an egregious violation of the four compromise pillars laid out by the President’s immigration reform framework.”

Trump’s four provisions are for any bill to include funds to build the border wall, to end the visa lottery program, to impose curbs on visas for the families of legal immigrants, and to protect Dreamers.

The Republican president has backed a bill by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley that embraces Trump’s wish list but is unlikely to win support from enough Democrats in the closely-divided chamber.

A narrower third bill, by Republican John McCain and Democrat Chris Coons, has been dismissed by Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was expected to bring forward all three measures on Thursday to gauge which has enough support to move toward a vote in the Senate ahead of a Friday deadline he has imposed for the legislation.

Despite backing from several Republicans for the Collins-led plan, it was unclear if enough Democrats would get behind it to muster the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate that Republicans control 51-49.

Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine told MSNBC on Thursday he thought lawmakers were “very close” to the 60 votes needed on the Collins-led measure. Republican Senator Marco Rubio told Fox News he was unsure whether any Senate plan would move forward.

Even if one of three bills passes, it must still win over the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a larger majority and are pushing a more conservative proposal that is closer in line with Trump’s framework.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he will support only legislation backed by Trump, who has carried his tough law-and-order stance toward immigrants from his 2016 campaign into his administration.

(Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Senate Republican leader embraces Trump immigration plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday turned up the heat on Democrats seeking protections for young “Dreamer” immigrants as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell embraced President Donald Trump’s demands for broad changes to the country’s immigration policies.

In announcing his support for legislation that would help immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children, McConnell also threw his weight behind building a U.S.-Mexico border wall and sharply curtailing visas for the parents and siblings of immigrants living in the United States legally.

“This proposal has my support and during this week of fair debate I believe it deserves support of every senator who’s ready to move beyond making points and actually making a law,” McConnell, a Republican, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Even some Republicans, however, have expressed skepticism that such broad, fundamental changes in U.S. immigration law can pass the Senate by the Thursday deadline that No. 2 Republican Senator John Cornyn urged late on Monday.

Also on Monday, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who is leading the charge for Dreamers, told reporters that he thought early Senate votes on immigration legislation would begin with “expansive” measures that will fail to win the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.

Then, Durbin said, senators will be forced to move “toward the center with a moderate approach.”

But at least for now, Republicans were holding a tough line. Republican Senator Tom Cotton, interviewed on Fox News, said Trump’s immigration plan “is not an opening bid for negotiations. It’s a best and final offer.”

That ran counter to statements Trump has made in recent days, including early on Tuesday in which he said in a tweet that “Negotiations on DACA have begun.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Democratic former President Barack Obama initiated in 2012 and which has allowed around 700,000 Dreamers to legally study and work in the United States temporarily. Last September, Trump announced he would terminate the program on March 5.

During testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on Monday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said he thought that a deal on immigration legislation will be reached “and that we have full funding on the (border) wall” of $18 billion over two years.

Durbin and other Democrats have talked of the possibility of a bill that provides for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and additional border security, which could include the construction of more border fencing and other high-tech tools to deter illegal immigrants.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan, additional reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump signs deal to end brief government shutdown, increase U.S. spending

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 7, 2018.

By David Morgan, Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress ended a brief government shutdown on Friday by reaching a wide-ranging deal that is expected to push budget deficits into the $1 trillion-a-year zone.

The bill passed by a wide margin in the Senate and survived a rebellion of 67 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives thanks to the support of some Democrats. Those conservatives were mainly angry about non-military spending increases.

President Donald Trump signed the measure into law on Friday morning, ending a government shutdown that began just after midnight, when Congress was still debating the budget deal.

It was the second shutdown this year under the Republican-controlled Congress and Trump, who played little role in attempts by party leaders this week to end months of fiscal squabbling.

The deal is the fifth temporary government funding measure for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and replenishes federal coffers until March 23, giving lawmakers more time to write a full-year budget.

It also extends the U.S. government’s borrowing authority until March 2019, sparing Washington politicians difficult votes on debt and deficits until after mid-term congressional elections in November.

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatives, the Republicans and Trump are now quickly expanding the U.S. budget deficit and its $20 trillion national debt. Their sweeping tax overhaul bill approved in December will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

Nearly $300 billion in new spending included in the bill approved on Friday will ensure the annual budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in 2019, said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a private fiscal policy watchdog group in Washington.

Friday’s budget deal allows for $165 billion in additional defense spending over two years that will help Trump deliver on his promise to rebuild the military.

That won over many Republicans but some were still furious over the $131 billion extra made available for non-military spending, including health and infrastructure.

None of the added spending will be offset by budget savings elsewhere or revenue increases, relying instead on government borrowing. There also is no offset reduction for nearly $90 billion in new disaster aid for U.S. states and territories ravaged by hurricanes or wildfires.

PRESSURE ON MARKETS

The brief shutdown in Washington came at a sensitive time for financial markets. Stocks plunged on Thursday on heavy volume, throwing off course a nearly nine-year bull run. The S&P 500 slumped 3.8 percent.

Markets barely flinched at the last shutdown in January, but that was before a dizzying selloff that started on Jan. 30 amid concerns about inflation and higher interest rates.

Republican Senator Rand Paul, objecting to deficit spending in the bill, engaged in a nine-hour, on-again, off-again protest and floor speech late on Thursday. He had harsh words for his own party.

“Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits,” he said. “I can’t … in good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. Really who is to blame? Both parties.”

His dissent forced the brief government shutdown, underscoring the persistent inability of Congress and Trump to deal efficiently with Washington’s most basic fiscal obligation of keeping the government open.

“Republican majorities in the House and Senate have turned the process into an embarrassing spectacle, running from one crisis directly into the next,” said Democratic Representative Nita Lowey prior to the House vote.

Republican Representative Kristi Noem told Reuters she voted against the bill because it increases non-defense spending and raises the federal debt ceiling.

“To increase domestic spending and raise the debt ceiling was coupling two very bad policy decisions and with no reforms tied to it. It was very disappointing,” she said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others in her party had opposed the bill because Republican House leaders would not guarantee her a debate later on steps to protect about 700,000 “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.

These young people were brought illegally to the country as children years ago, mostly from Mexico. Trump said in September he would end by March 5 former Democratic President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects the Dreamers from deportation.

Trump urged Congress to act before then. Senate Republicans have pledged to hold a separate immigration debate this month.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had not offered Pelosi an equivalent promise in the House, although he said in a speech before the vote on Friday that he would push ahead for a deal.

“My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment,” he said. “We will solve this DACA problem.”

But Pelosi said Ryan’s words fell short, accusing him of not having “the courage to lift the shadow of fear from the lives of” Dreamers who face the prospect of deportation.

Minutes after midnight, when the short-lived shutdown began, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sent a notice to millions of federal employees telling them to check with their agencies on whether they should report to work on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Makini Brice, Katanga Johnson and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Bill Trott)

A look at Washington’s battle of the Russia classified memos

A copy of the formerly top secret classified memo written by House Intelligence Committee Republican staff and declassified for release by U.S. President Donald Trump is seen shortly after it was released by the committee in Washington, February 2, 2018.

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House must decide this week whether to clear the release of a classified memo written by Democrats. The document aims to rebut a Republican memo alleging FBI and Justice Department bias against President Donald Trump in a federal probe into potential collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

The following explains what is in play in a partisan dispute roiling Washington.

WHAT IS THE REPUBLICAN MEMO?

The four-page document was commissioned by Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, and released on Feb. 2.

It accused senior Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department officials of not revealing that portions of a dossier of alleged Trump-Russia contacts used in seeking a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page were partly paid for by Democrats.

It also portrayed former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier, as biased, saying he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”

WHAT IS THE DEMOCRATIC MEMO?

In late January, House Intelligence Committee Democrats said they had drafted their own classified 10-page memo about the investigation of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election. They said their document would counteract what they criticized as “highly misleading” assertions in the Republican memo.

While Republicans on the intelligence panel initially blocked Democrats’ effort to release their memo, they joined Democrats on Feb. 5 and allowed the Democratic document to be sent to the White House for Trump to decide whether to release it.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Democrats say the Republican memo could be used by Republicans to try to undermine the credibility of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to help him win the election.

Mueller’s investigation also is examining whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice by trying to thwart the Russia probe, which has cast a cloud over his year-old presidency.

Democrats say Trump’s allies hope to use the memo to protect Trump. They believe it could give the president, who fired FBI Director James Comey in May, an excuse to fire Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who hired Mueller, or even to dismiss Mueller himself.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign using hacking and propaganda, an effort that eventually included attempting to tilt the race in Trump’s favor.

Moscow has denied meddling and Trump has denied collusion or any obstruction of justice. He has called the investigation a witch hunt.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF THE MEMOS?

The release of the Republican memo widened the divide between Democrats and Republicans, possibly diminishing the credibility of any findings by congressional panels that are also investigating the Russia matter.

Its release also threatened to weaken long-standing cooperation between lawmakers and intelligence agencies, which have shared classified information with Congress with the understanding that it would never be made public.

If Trump declines to declassify and release the Democrats’ memo, it could set up a dispute that would pit the White House and many of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress against Democrats, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

WHAT ROLE DOES THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE PLAY?

The House Intelligence Committee is one of three congressional panels investigating the Russia issue even as Mueller pursues his criminal probe. The dispute over the memo has deepened a partisan divide on the panel, whose Democratic members accuse Republicans of seeking to focus on the Steele dossier and Page surveillance to protect Trump. Republicans say they merely want to publicize wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney and Frances Kerry)

Disregarding FBI, White House to release Republican memo: official

The main headquarters of the FBI, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is seen in Washington on March 4, 2012.

By Steve Holland and Warren Strobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A secret Republican memo alleging FBI bias against President Donald Trump likely will be released on Thursday, a Trump administration official said, a move that would put the White House in direct confrontation with the top U.S. law enforcement agency.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a rare rebuke on Wednesday to the president and his fellow Republicans in Congress who are pushing to release the four-page document crafted by Republican members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

“The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the FBI said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Justice Department officials have also said releasing the memo could jeopardize classified information.

The administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday night, did not elaborate on the expected release.

The fight over the memo reflects a wider battle over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to help him win the 2016 presidential election. Russia and Trump have both denied the allegations. Mueller’s investigation and the FBI probe that preceded it have hung over Trump’s year-old presidency.

Democrats say the four-page memo is misleading, based on a selective use of highly classified data and intended to discredit Mueller’s investigation.

Representative Devin Nunes, the intelligence committee’s Republican chairman who commissioned the document, dismissed the objections to its release as “spurious.”

In a bid to block its release, Representative Adam Schiff, the intelligence committee’s top Democrat, said late on Wednesday he had discovered that Nunes had sent the White House a version of the memo that was “materially altered” and not what the committee voted to release on Monday. It was not clear if the panel’s Republicans would hold a new vote on the altered document.

The memo accuses the FBI and Justice Department of misleading a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge in March as they sought to extend an eavesdropping warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, four sources familiar with it have said.

They said memo contends that the FBI and Justice Department failed to tell the judge that some of the information used to justify the warrant included portions of a dossier of Trump-Russia contacts that was opposition research paid for by Democrats.

However, the sources said the memo does not mention that the request to extend surveillance on Page, which began before Trump took office, also relied on other highly classified information and that U.S. agencies had confirmed excerpts from the dossier included in the request.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign using hacking and propaganda to attempt to tilt the race in favor of Trump. The president has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and “hoax.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)

Trump urges bipartisan compromises but continues hard line immigration policies

U.S. President Donald J. Trump (C) stands at the podium as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) look on during his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2018.

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump urged lawmakers on Tuesday to work toward bipartisan compromises, but pushed a hard line on immigration, insisting on a border wall and other concessions from Democrats as part of any deal to protect the children of illegal immigrants.

Trump, in his first State of the Union speech, gave no ground on the contentious issue of whether to shield young immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation.

Aiming to keep conservative supporters happy as he looks to November congressional elections, Trump stood by a set of principles opposed by Democrats, including the border wall with Mexico and new restrictions on how many family members that legal immigrants can bring into the United States.

“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” Trump said in his address.

Trump used the hour-and-20-minute speech, given annually by presidents to Congress, to try to overcome doubts about his presidency at a time when he is battling a probe into his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia and suffering low job approval ratings.

Trump made no mention of the federal probe into whether his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election, a controversy that is dogging his presidency. Trump has denied collusion and has called the probe a “witch hunt.”

The speech was short on details about Trump’s policy proposals.

But his sober, measured approach was welcomed by the public. A CNN/SSRS snap poll said 48 percent of those surveyed had a “very positive” response to the speech and 22 percent “somewhat positive.”

There was little sign of unity inside the House of Representatives chamber where Trump spoke. Republican lawmakers cheered wildly at the president’s applause lines. Democrats often sat in their seats silently and many booed when he laid out his immigration proposals.

DENOUNCES NORTH KOREAN LEADERSHIP

Turning to foreign policy late in the speech, Trump denounced the “depraved character” of North Korea’s leadership and said Pyongyang’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.”

“We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening,” he said. In a surprise moment, he singled out a North Korea defector in the crowd, Ji Seong-ho, as an example of what he called the reclusive country’s brutal nature.

Trump also said he had signed an order to keep open the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for foreign terrorism suspects. Former Democratic President Barack Obama had vowed to close the prison, which has been condemned by human rights groups, but was unable to shut it down completely.

Whether Trump would follow through on his appeal for bipartisan harmony was far from clear. Trump’s past attempts at a unifying message have been undermined by his later rancorous tweets and divisive statements that angered Democrats and frequently annoyed lawmakers in his own Republican Party.

The unity plea will first be put to the test in his drive for a compromise on protecting 1.8 million Dreamers – people brought illegally to the country as children – who face a March 5 deadline on whether they can begin to be deported.

Republicans welcomed Trump’s immigration proposals, with U.S. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma saying Trump tried to strike a middle ground.

“My Democratic colleagues can say he didn’t move enough, but you can’t deny he moved a lot. There are people in his core base who think he has moved way too far.”

But Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and the longest-serving senator, said Trump’s words about unity, after a year of “divisive actions, petty insults and disgraceful race-baiting … ring hollow.”

Trump said he was “extending an open hand” for an immigration deal and that he would provide Dreamers a pathway to citizenship over 10 to 12 years in exchange for funding the border wall, which he promised during his campaign, and restrictions on legal immigration.

He called his plan a “down-the-middle compromise,” but some Democrats hissed when he said he wanted to rein in “chain migration,” the ability of legal immigrants to bring a wide-ranging number of family members into the country.

“Let’s come together, set politics aside and finally get the job done,” Trump said.

INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

Trump took credit for U.S. economic gains including a soaring stock market and a low jobless rate. He boasted about the economic growth he believes will result from tax cuts Republicans pushed through Congress late last year.

“This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream,” he said.

Trump said he would like a compromise over a plan to rebuild aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure. He said he wanted legislation to generate at least $1.5 trillion through a combination of federal, state and local spending as well as private-sector contributions.

Market reaction was muted, with S&P 500 futures drifting higher, but investors saying there was little new for Wall Street in the speech.

“Futures lifted a bit because it was not a negative speech. He was calm. He celebrated America. He avoided his own failures,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors in Chicago.

While Trump spoke of compromise, his speech provided some reminders of partisan battles over the past year.

He singled out a speech guest, 12-year-old Preston Sharp, for leading an effort to put American flags on the graves of 40,000 veterans, saying the initiative was “why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”

His criticism of National Football League players who refused to stand for the anthem in protest against police shootings of minorities and racial disparities in the justice system, dominated headlines last autumn.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Roberta Rampton, Makini Brice, Eric Beech and Eric Walsh; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Trump says Republicans will accept citizenship for ‘Dreamers’

A woman protests to call for a new DREAM Act to replace DACA in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 17, 2018.

By Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he would be willing to shift his stance on immigration to push through a deal that protects illegal immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation and offer them citizenship.

In an interview with CNBC broadcast on Friday, Trump also said Republican Senators Tom Cotton, John Cornyn and David Perdue and Representative Bob Goodlatte, who have all taken tough stances on immigration, could agree to offer citizenship within 10 to 12 years to so-called “Dreamers.”

“They’ve really shifted a lot, and I think they’re willing to shift more, and so am I,” the Republican president told CNBC in an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We’re going to see. If we make the right deal, I think they will.”

“These are people that have very strong opinions on DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) and on immigration generally. And I happen to think they’re largely right,” said Trump.

It was unclear whether Trump’s stated willingness to shift more on immigration would resonate with Democrats, who along with some Republicans, have accused Trump of being an unreliable negotiating partner, too willing to change his stance under pressure from conservatives in his party.

Senior White House officials outlined an immigration plan on Thursday, hours after the Trump interview was taped, that would offer a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million of the illegal immigrants. The proposal includes measures to curb some legal immigration programs and provide a border wall with Mexico.

The White House offered to more than double the number of Dreamers, who would be protected from deportation, describing it as a major concession aimed at attracting enough votes for an immigration deal from Democrats.

To appeal to Republicans, the plan would slash family sponsorship of immigrants, tighten border security and provide billions of dollars in funding for a border wall with Mexico, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.

Senators Cotton and Perdue on Thursday praised the framework. But Representative Jim Jordan, a member of the House of Representatives conservative Freedom Caucus, said on Friday the focus of any plan must prioritize border security issues over DACA. “I have some concerns frankly. It’s all about where the focus is,” he told Fox News.

The deal has been panned by both pro-immigration groups, who called the proposal a bad trade-off, and conservative groups, who criticized the expansion of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Congressional Democrats also oppose the measure. “The president should not be releasing a framework that is a nonstarter like this one,” Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Makini Brice; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Government shutdown fizzles on spending, immigration deal in Congress

Clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol at the start of the third day of a shut down of the federal government in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2018.

By Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congress voted on Monday to end a three-day U.S. government shutdown, approving the latest short-term funding bill as Democrats accepted promises from Republicans for a broad debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.

The fourth temporary funding bill since October easily passed the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Donald Trump later in the evening signed the measure, largely a product of negotiations among Senate leaders.

Enactment by Trump of the bill allowed the government to reopen fully on Tuesday and keep the lights on through Feb. 8, when the Republican-led Congress will have to revisit budget and immigration policy, two disparate issues that have become closely linked.

The House approved the funding bill by a vote of 266-150 just hours after it passed the Senate by a vote of 81-18.

Trump’s attempts to negotiate an end to the shutdown with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer collapsed on Friday in recriminations and fingerpointing. The Republican president took a new swipe at Democrats as he celebrated the Senate’s pact.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” Trump said in a statement. “We will make a long term deal on immigration if and only if it’s good for the country.”

Immigration and the budget are entangled because of Congress’ failure to approve a full-scale budget on time by Oct. 1, 2017, just weeks after Trump summarily ordered an end by March to Obama-era legal protections for young immigrants known as the “Dreamers.”

The budget failure has necessitated passage by Congress of a series of temporary funding measures, giving Democrats leverage each step of the way since they hold votes needed to overcome a 60-vote threshold in the Senate for most legislation.

With government spending authority about to expire again at midnight on Friday, Democrats withheld support for a fourth stopgap spending bill and demanded action for the Dreamers.

‘DREAMERS’

The roughly 700,000 young people were brought to the United States illegally as children, mainly from Mexico and Central America. They mostly grew up in the United States.

Former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program gave the Dreamers legal protections and shielded them from deportation.

Democrats, as a condition of supporting a new spending stopgap, demanded a resolution of the uncertain future Trump created for the Dreamers with his DACA order last year.

But Democratic leaders, worried about being blamed for the disruptive shutdown that resulted, relented in the end and accepted a pledge by Republicans to hold a debate later over the fate of the Dreamers and related immigration issues.

Tens of thousands of federal workers had begun closing down operations for lack of funding on Monday, the first weekday since the shutdown, but essential services such as security and defense operations had continued.

The shutdown undercut Trump’s self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington. It forced him to cancel a weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

The U.S. government cannot fully operate without funding bills that are voted in Congress regularly. Washington has been hampered by frequent threats of a shutdown in recent years as the two parties fight over spending, immigration and other issues. The last U.S. government shutdown was in 2013.

Both sides in Washington had tried to blame each other for the shutdown. The White House on Saturday refused to negotiate on immigration issues until the government reopened.

On Monday, Trump met separately at the White House with Republican senators who have taken a harder line on immigration and with moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Doug Jones.

Reuters/Ipsos polling data released on Monday showed Americans deeply conflicted about the immigration issue, although majorities in both parties supported the DACA program.

‘WHY DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?’

Some liberal groups were infuriated by the decision to reopen the government.

“Today’s cave by Senate Democrats – led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats – is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Markets have absorbed the shutdown drama over the past week.

U.S. stocks advanced on Monday as each of Wall Street’s main indexes touched a record intraday level after the shutdown deal.

For Jovan Rodriguez of Brooklyn, New York, a Dreamer whose family came from Mexico when he was 3 years old and ultimately settled in Texas, the latest development was more of the same.

“Why do we have to wait – again? It’s like our lives are suspended in limbo,” he said. And they have been for months. I don’t trust the Republicans and I don’t trust (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell with just a promise. That’s not good enough any more.”

(Additional reporting by David Morgan, Ginger Gibson, Amanda Becker, Blake Brittain, Susan Heavey, Steve Holland, Diane Bartz, Lucia Mutikani, Yasmeen Abdutaleb and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Megan Davies in New York and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

Government workers begin shutdown as Senate vote looms

The U.S. Capitol is lit during the second day of a shutdown of the federal government in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2018.

By Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of federal workers began shutting down operations on Monday with the U.S. government closed and the Senate prepared to try again to restore funding, if only temporarily, and resolve a dispute over immigration.

As government employees prepared for the first weekday since the shutdown began at midnight Friday, U.S. senators were to vote at midday on a funding bill to get the lights back on in Washington and across the government until early February.

Support for the bill was uncertain, after Republicans and Democrats spent all day on Sunday trying to strike a deal, only to go home for the night short of an agreement.

Federal employees received notices on Saturday about whether they were exempt from the shutdown, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said. Depending on their schedules, some were told to stay home or to go to work for up to four hours on Monday to shut their operation, then go home. None will get paid.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Sunday that an overnight vote on a measure to fund government operations through Feb. 8 was canceled and would be held at 12 p.m. EST (1700 GMT) on Monday.

Up until Monday, most federal workers were not directly affected by the shutdown that began at midnight on Friday.

The federal Office of Personnel Management said on its website on Sunday night that “federal government operations vary by agency.”

The Department of Defense published a memo on its website detailing who does and does not get paid in a shutdown and saying that civilian employees were on temporary leave, except for those needed to support active-duty troops.

The Department of Interior led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, offered no guidance on its website, which still had a “Happy Holidays from the Zinke Family” video near the top of the site. The department oversees national parks and federal lands.

The State Department website said: “At this time, scheduled passport and visa services in the United States and at our posts overseas will continue during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits.”

Markets have absorbed the shutdown drama over the last week, and on Monday morning world stocks and U.S. bond markets largely shrugged off Washington’s standoff even as the dollar continued its pullback. U.S. stock futures edged lower.

‘DREAMERS’ DRAMA

The U.S. government has not been shut down since 2013, when about 800,000 federal workers were put on furlough. That impasse prevented passage of a needed funding bill centered on former Democratic President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

The problem this time focused on immigration policy, principally President Donald Trump’s order last year ending an Obama program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which gave legal protections to “Dreamer” immigrants.

The “Dreamers” are young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents or other adults, mainly from Mexico and Central America, and who mostly grew up in the United States.

Trump said last year he would end DACA on March 5 and asked Congress to come up with a legislative fix before then to prevent Dreamers from being deported.

Democrats have withheld support for a temporary funding bill to keep the government open over the DACA issue. McConnell extended an olive branch on Sunday, pledging to bring immigration legislation up for debate after Feb. 8 so long as the government remained open.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer objected to the plan and it was unclear whether McConnell’s pledge would be enough for Democrats to support a stopgap funding bill.

Congress failed last year to pass a complete budget by Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year, and the government has been operating on a series of three stopgap spending bills.

Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, where they have a slim 51-49 majority. But most legislation requires 60 Senate votes to pass, giving Democrats leverage.

Trump told a bipartisan Senate working group earlier this month that he would sign whatever DACA legislation was brought to him. The Republican president then rejected a bipartisan measure and negotiations stalled.

McConnell had insisted that the Senate would not move to immigration legislation until it was clear what could earn Trump’s support.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who is involved in bipartisan immigration negotiations, said McConnell’s statements on Sunday indicated there was progress in negotiations and he urged his Democratic colleagues to approve another stopgap bill.

(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and Damon Darlin; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Clock running out to avert U.S. government shutdown as Congress faces deadline

The U.S. Capitol building is lit at dusk ahead of planned votes on tax reform in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017.

By Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump postponed plans to leave Washington on Friday while the U.S. Congress faced a midnight deadline to come up with funding legislation to avoid federal agency shutdowns.

Although the House of Representatives voted 230-197 on Thursday night for a bill to extend expiring funding through Feb. 16, the measure appeared to be on the verge of collapse in the Senate.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said that on Thursday he was ratcheting up the likelihood of a shutdown from 30 percent to a 50-50 possibility.

“The vote this afternoon looks challenging for us to keep the government open,” Trump’s legislative liaison, Marc Short, told Fox News. He expected negotiations to continue up until midnight.

Short and Mulvaney planned to brief the media Friday morning on plans for any possible shutdown.

The Senate was to reconvene later Friday morning. Congress has been struggling since October to resolve the issue and the current bill is endangered because of the deep rift between Republicans and Democrats on immigration issues that have found their way into the funding fight.

Markets were keenly focused Friday morning on the budget woes. The U.S. dollar moving to a near three-year low while Wall Street largely played down any fears of the looming possible shutdown and opened higher.

The government currently is being funded by a third temporary measure since the new fiscal year began in October.

Trump, who was scheduled to leave for his Florida resort in the afternoon, will remain in Washington until Congress passes legislation to avert a shutdown, White House officials said.

“The trip is on ice. If there is a shutdown he won’t go,” one official said on condition of anonymity.

In a morning tweet, Trump accused Democrats of holding up the measure over immigration.

“Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming?” he said.

Republicans control the Senate but with Senator John McCain undergoing cancer treatment at home in Arizona, they will need at least 10 Democrats to reach the 60 votes required to pass a spending bill. In addition to strong Democratic opposition, at least three Republican senators have said they will not back the continuing resolution in its current form.

Republican Senator Mike Rounds, who had earlier said he could not back the bill in current form, on Friday said in a statement that while the measure was “not ideal,” he would support it after being assured that other legislation to adequately fund the U.S. military would be raised soon.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has indicated he was leaning in favor of the stopgap measure. Manchin is one of 10 Democrats up for re-election this year in states Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

When the government shuts down, which has only happened three times in a meaningful way since 1995, hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” federal workers may be put on furlough, while “essential” employees, dealing with public safety and national security, would keep working.

SHORT-TERM FUNDING

Nearly four months into the 2018 fiscal year, the two parties still have not agreed on top-line spending for defense and non-defense programs, rendering impossible the passage of a long-term government funding bill. Instead, Congress has been struggling to pass its fourth short-term appropriations measure.

Amid the deadlock, more senators were raising the possibility of merely approving enough new federal funds for a few days. The idea is to put pressure on negotiators to then cut deals on immigration, defense spending and non-defense funding by next week.

The immigration fight is over Democrats’ demand that 700,000 young undocumented immigrants be protected from deportation.

Given temporary legal status under a program started by former President Barack Obama, these “Dreamers,” as they are called, were brought into the United States, largely from Mexico and Central America, as children. Many have been educated in the United States and know no other country.

In September, Trump announced he was ending the program and giving Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative replacement.

Since then, however, the president has engaged in a series of spats with Congress. Trump and conservatives in Congress have used the Dreamer fight to try and win tough new immigration controls, including the president’s promised border wall.

Late on Thursday, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who is leading the fight for the Dreamers, told reporters there had been some signs earlier in the day that talks with Republicans were taking a positive turn and a deal could be within reach.

But in a late-night speech on the Senate floor, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of aiming to “hold the entire country hostage” by demanding immediate resolution of a “non-imminent problem” related to immigration.

McConnell continued to push for passage of the bill approved by the House so that a government shutdown could be avoided.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)