Congress passes two-year budget deal that excludes protections for Dreamers

We'll do this all again in March.

CREDIT: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images
CREDIT: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a two-year budget deal early Friday morning that opens the door for more than $400 billion in increased defense and domestic spending, signaling an end to the shortest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The two-year deal only includes about six weeks of additional funding for the government. Congress must come up with a long-term spending measure in order to avert another government shutdown once current funding lapses on March 23.

The move came hours after a temporary shutdown caused by Republican Sen. Rand Paul (KY), who stood for a nine-hour speech on the Senate floor to protest the bill, which adds an additional $1 trillion to the deficit in 2019, delaying the vote past midnight, when government funding lapsed.

The Senate eventually voted to pass the bill by a vote of 71-28. The measure then went to the the House, where members voted to pass it 240-186.

“This is a great victory for our men and women in uniform. Republicans and Democrats joined together to finally give our troops the resources and our generals the certainty to plan for the future,” House Speaker Paul Ryan stated.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the bill’s middle class carve-outs.

“What makes Democrats proudest of this bill is that after a decade of cuts to programs that help the middle class, we have a dramatic reversal,” he said. “Funding for education, infrastructure, fighting drug abuse, and medical research will all, for the first time in years, get very significant increases, and we have placed Washington on a path to deliver more help to the middle class in the future.”

Not everyone was pleased with the deal. Paul complained that the bill was a deficit buster and fiscally irresponsible.

“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” he said on the Senate floor. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t…in good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits.”

Paul previously voted in favor of the Republican tax bill, passed in December, which adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

The two-year budget bill raises defense spending caps by $165 billion and non-defense spending caps by $131 billion, and includes a short-term stopgap spending measure that funds the government for six weeks.

The deal notably excludes any legislative fixes for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. President Trump announced last year he would rescind the DACA program.

Previously, many Democrats had pledged not to vote for any long-term funding legislation that did not include a permanent fix for DACA recipients. But on Friday, several of those same Democrats caved under pressure from more moderate party voices.

“[The bipartisan budget agreement] meets nearly every one of our priorities,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said in a statement earlier on Thursday. “If Democrats cannot support this kind of compromise, Congress will never function. I am angry that the Republican leadership is holding up a DACA fix, but I also know that they would not have allowed it to be solved through the budget process.”

In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) echoed those statements, arguing that the bill, while far from perfect, was a good solution for the country, and that “compromise is not always easy [or] popular.”

“Not everything I want was included in this deal. It does not provide protection for our nation’s Dreamers — law-abiding strivers who call America home and seek nothing more than to contribute to our society,” Leahy stated. “…But while this agreement does not contain everything I would like, on balance it is a good bill for the American people.”

The two-year proposal was initially met with pushback in the House, where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood for more than eight hours on Wednesday to address the bill and share stories from young DACA recipients who face possible deportation when the program officially expires on March 5. According to analysis by the Center for American Progress, thousands have already lost their protected status and are vulnerable to immigration crackdowns. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed at the Center for American Progress.)

“Our plea to the speaker is for us, for ourselves, to honor the values of our founders,” Pelosi said, pushing House Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on permanent protections for Dreamers, a broader term for all undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

She added, “We have to be strong as a country…to respect the aspirations of people who are our future. The young people are our future and these dreamers are part of that. They’ve been enriched…by the greatness of our country.”

In response, a spokesperson for the speaker’s office stated that Ryan had “already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the President supports.” According to CNN, Pelosi’s spokesperson shot back in a statement later, saying that “Speaker Ryan needs to make a real commitment to act and stop hiding behind the President. It’s time to get the job done.”

However, on Thursday afternoon, Pelosi curbed her language in a dear colleague letter to House Democrats, explaining that she would vote “no” on the budget legislation but not directly requesting that they do the same.

Shortly following the early-morning vote on Friday, Ryan issued a statement that fell short of promising Democrats their desired bipartisan DACA negotiations. “Once the president signs this bill into law, we will have a clear path to pursue our ambitious agenda for 2018,” he said.

As Reuters reported, Ryan managed to name-drop the program earlier in the morning on the House floor, promising his Democratic counterparts, “My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment … We will solve this DACA problem.”

The two-year budget legislation now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed.

This article was updated to correct a typo in the number of DACA recipients currently in the United States; there are 690,000 undocumented immigrants with protected status under the DACA program. An earlier version stated that number was 690 million.