Minn. senators vote for plan to end shutdown

Minnesota’s two Democratic senators changed course Monday, agreeing to back a short-term funding plan for the federal government after balking at one on the table last week prior to a three-day shutdown.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith said their support came after Republican colleagues committed to working on an elusive immigration fix. Both senators voted to limit debate on the temporary funding authorization and later on the measure itself.

Klobuchar, who is seeking a third term this year, was involved in reaching the agreement to end the short shutdown, which began Saturday. She said it came after majority Senate Republicans promised to consider a bill next month that would prevent deportation of people who came to America as children with parents who lacked legal immigration status.

Klobuchar said she’s confident a proposal to retain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, can pass the Senate. Without such a bill by early March, hundreds of thousands of affected immigrants could face loss of jobs or even deportation.

“What we got was a commitment from a number of Republicans with us that they would work with us on a bill,” Klobuchar told MPR News. “And that is what will move us forward, got us out of the shutdown, allowed the children’s health insurance to be in place for six years, which affected thousands of Minnesotans and also put us on a path forward to Dreamers that we didn’t have before.”

In a written statement, Smith said the bill represents progress.

“This is a human rights issue and it speaks to who we are as Americans,” she said. “And it’s a fight I remain committed to winning.”

Many advocates for immigrants, though, were upset. They said there is no guarantee that the GOP-led House will go along or that Republican President Donald Trump will sign a fix. They argued that Democrats gave up significant leverage and criticized Democrats for giving in.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the upcoming immigration debate will involve amendments from both sides. Funding for Trump’s proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will also figure into the legislation.

The House also approved the revised temporary funding measure late Monday and sent it to Trump, allowing the government to return to normal operation.

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents a St. Paul area district, said she would oppose the continuing resolution, known in Washington parlance as a CR.

“I’m a NO vote on the CR that kicks the can down the road for 17 more days,” McCollum tweeted. “Minnesotans get absolutely nothing from another stopgap with no guarantee of progress on a long-term budget or action on national priorities.”

Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who represents a central Minnesota district, said government funding and immigration matters should never have become entangled. He planned to vote for the funding plan but was noncommittal on immigration, saying Republicans have their own ideas to bring to the table.

“This immigration issue is not part of the appropriations process and not about keeping the government running,” Emmer told MPR News. “It’s a separate issue.”

Last week, all Republicans in Minnesota’s delegation voted for a four-week temporary funding plan. All Democrats except Rep. Collin Peterson of western Minnesota opposed it in the House.