The federal government reopened as of 9:23 pm Eastern time on January 25. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump retreated from his demand that any spending bill include money for a wall along the U.S. southern border.
Why cave now? For weeks, media around the country have been reporting on the hardship faced by some 800,000 federal workers and at least 1 million contractors going without pay. Trump changed course largely for two reasons: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied him permission to deliver a State of the Union address while the government was shut down, and several major east coast airports experienced delays on January 25 due to air traffic controller staff shortages.
Shortly after Trump announced his new position, the U.S. House and Senate approved by voice votes a continuing resolution to fund the government for three weeks. Congressional leaders and White House representatives will attempt to work out some kind of immigration compromise by February 15. The deal includes an extension and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired near the beginning of the shutdown.
House Democrats including Iowa’s Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) had previously voted ten times for bills to reopen various government agencies and provide back pay to federal workers. A few House Republicans had supported those bills, but Iowa’s Representative Steve King (IA-04) stuck with the rest of the GOP caucus, opposing them all. King has been among the most vocal supporters of a wall on the Mexican border since long before Trump ran for president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to bring up any of the spending bills House Democrats approved. As the shutdown dragged on, some GOP senators grumbled about their decision. Senator Joni Ernst voiced support for McConnell’s stance, repeatedly telling Iowa reporters and constituents that she wanted the government to reopen, but Congress needed to pass a bill Trump would sign. According to CNN’s Manu Raju, McConnell called Trump on January 24 to warn him “he didn’t know how much longer he could hold the line.”
McConnell brought two spending bills to the Senate floor on January 24. Ernst and Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley voted for the GOP leader’s proposal, which included funding for a wall. It fell ten votes short of the 60 needed (roll call). A short while later, a “clean” resolution received 52 votes, with six Republicans joining the all the Democrats present (roll call). Ernst and Grassley opposed that bill.
In November, Ernst joined the Senate leadership team for the first time, elevating her status. But this episode points to a risk of being so closely aligned with McConnell. If talks break down in February and the government shuts down again, Ernst could be locked into an increasingly unpopular position. Several of the Republicans who voted for the Democratic spending bill on Thursday are up for re-election in 2020, like Ernst.
I enclose below comments on the government reopening from all the Iowans in Congress except for King, who did not release a statement or post about the deal on his Twitter feed. I will update as needed.
P.S.–Pelosi proved beyond any doubt that she is the right House speaker for this moment. None of the “Five White Guys” or their supporters could have navigated this shutdown as skillfully.
P.P.S.–Trump seems to be struggling to adapt to the reality that Democrats control the House. In fairness, it can take a while to get used to a big change. A few days ago, Raju tweeted about 22 House Republicans (mostly from the Freedom Caucus) opposing a bipartisan resolution expressing support for U.S. membership in NATO. Seeing the words “House Freedom Caucus members,” I habitually clicked on Raju’s photo of the roll call vote, looking for Rod Blum’s name. A second later, I remembered I don’t have to worry about Blum anymore.
Statement released by Representative Abby Finkenauer on January 25:
“For 35 days, this unnecessary and hurtful shutdown has put the American dream on hold. This is not how our country should work. This is not how we treat people. We owe it to our federal employees, farmers, and every American impacted by this shutdown to come together with a core understanding that working families should never again be used as bargaining chips, by this administration or the next.”
Statement released by Representative Dave Loebsack:
“It is way past time for the President to take this step. While I wish Congress would pass a bill funding the government for a full year and not another short-term extension, it is imperative that we get the government open and working on behalf of the American people. While the shutdown wreaks havoc on the financial security of our nation, across the country folks are feeling its very real negative economic impact. In the next three weeks, Congress must put aside the games and work together to find a reasonable way to permanently reopen the government. Hardworking Iowans can no longer afford to be caught in the middle of these games. It is beyond unacceptable that we are in this position!”
Statement released by Representative Cindy Axne:
“I am incredibly grateful for our dedicated federal workforce, those who worked without receiving a paycheck and those who were furloughed for the past 35 days.
“I’m pleased Congressional leaders and the President reached a deal to re-open the government and provide backpay to our federal workers. But no matter which political party is in charge, the practice of using a shutdown to advance any political or policy agenda is unacceptable.
“The significant hardship this shutdown has caused our economy, our communities, and our families was completely avoidable. Iowa federal contractors, farmers and small business owners won’t get reimbursed for the economic hit they took because of this government dysfunction.
“Over the next three weeks, I will work with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to keep our government open while negotiating a bipartisan deal to strengthen our border security. I’m ready to get to work to lower the cost of health care, support our farmers and strengthen our rural communities.”
Since assuming office on January 3, Congresswoman Axne voted 11 times to re-open the government.
Statement released by Senator Chuck Grassley:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following statement on President Trump’s announcement to reopen the government and allow Congress more time to address the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border.
“Congress has a responsibility to reach a compromise that funds the government and addresses key humanitarian and immigration challenges facing our nation. Today President Trump demonstrated yet again that he is willing to be flexible and negotiate a solution to end the government shutdown. It’s high time Minority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi end their blockade and come to the table to work out a solution that funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year and addresses the border crisis. Saying ‘no’ to every compromise proposal put forth by the president without providing a counterproposal that can be agreed to by all sides isn’t leadership, it’s abdication. And the American people are paying the price. The final package should also end government shutdowns once and for all.”
Statement released by Senator Joni Ernst:
Ernst: “The American people expect us to do better; we have an opportunity to step up and do the right thing, and that’s find a solution.”
WASHINGTON—The partial government shutdown has gone on for too long. Yesterday, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) joined her colleagues—Republicans and Democrats—on the Senate floor in calling for a bipartisan solution that will secure our borders and immediately reopen the federal government.
In her speech, Ernst outlined the fundamental duties of Congress: to provide for our nation’s security and to fund the government. She also outlined the impact that the partial shutdown has had on Iowans, and the urgent need for Congress to find a path forward and get federal workers back to work.
Click here or on the image above to watch.
On the Senate floor, Senator Ernst said:
“Thank you very much, Senator Murkowski and Senator Cardin. Thank you for your leadership in organizing this floor colloquy.
“I do want to join my colleagues in expressing how urgent it is that we not only secure our borders but that we open our government.
“We really do have to come together. We’ve got two sides of the aisle here, our Democrats and our Republican friends. Certainly we can come to a solution. We’ve got to figure out a path forward, folks, and I’m glad that we’re here to do that.
“We have a duty to provide for our nation’s security and it’s also our job to fund the government. We just voted on a sensible and smart proposal offered by the president that every Democrat and Republican should have supported, but unfortunately it was rejected today.
“You know, back home our hardworking Iowans, and of course Americans all across the country, they’re tired of government shutdowns and they are disappointed in the dysfunction of Washington, D.C.
“The impacts of this government shutdown are tangible for families. They feel it. People are hurting all across this nation.
“Most families don’t have a rainy-day fund. Money only lasts so long when you have zero income. Prolonged periods without a paycheck are unsustainable.
“I have a friend who works for federal law enforcement, and fortunately he’s up in seniority but he told me the other day, he said, ‘Joni, our young workers, our young federal workers, they just can’t make ends meet.’ Children don’t stop growing, people don’t stop getting sick, and the obligations of caring for families don’t stop just because we have.
“Washington has stopped working, folks. We’ve got to get it together.
“I’ve heard from businesses on the brink of collapse. I’ve heard from first-time home buyers that are trapped in limbo right now. And there are serious consequences that I’ve heard about from our farmers who work every day with the United States Department of Agriculture, the USDA.
“Our food banks, our churches, and other charities that spend their time and their resources helping families and communities through these tough times, helping those furloughed workers and those who are in need, they’re running out of resources.
“They’re running out of time. And it only can last so long.
“We need our DOJ working to stop crime and violence. We need our vital government agencies back up and running. We can do that.
“I support a stronger border, and I support the president’s sensible proposal, which does include a barrier, manpower, ports of entry, technology, and infrastructure. I think it’s necessary that these investments be part of an overall deal.
“Our lack of border security has resulted in a humanitarian crisis at the border. We have tens of thousands of illegals and inadmissible immigrants on our southern border every month.
“I agree with President Trump and many of my colleagues that securing our southern border is a must-do to discourage illegal immigration, curb the human trafficking, stop drugs, stop gun trafficking, in addition to stopping the ability of gangs and terrorists to exploit the holes in our system.
“You know what, folks? The American people expect us to do better; we have an opportunity to step up and do the right thing, and that’s find a solution. We have to do it by working together.
“So again, I want to thank all of my colleagues for coming together today on the floor. Again, Senator Cardin, Senator Murkowski, thank you for organizing the effort and hopefully we will come to a solution.
“So, folks, the nation is watching us. We can do better. I’ll yield the floor.”