Citing concerns over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeping his promise to take up an immigration bill in exchange for Democratic votes to reopen the government for three weeks, Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto voted against the GOP’s stopgap spending bill.
“Senator McConnell has consistently proven that his word cannot be counted on,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “Now, it’s more important than ever to keep pressure on Leader McConnell to pass the Dream Act. We must fight like hell to make sure that Senator McConnell keeps his promise.”
Her comments came Monday just after the Senate voted 81 to 18 to approve the measure. Following the Senate’s action, the House passed the bill on 266 to 150 vote and sent it to the White House for President Trump’s signature to reopen the government.
Along with extending government funding through Feb. 8, the legislation also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers nearly 69,000 kids in Nevada, for six years. Nevada Republican Dean Heller voted in favor of the bill.
Some Democrats and Republicans, like Cortez Masto, have been critical of McConnell for making a similar promise in December. McConnell said he would bring up an immigration bill if a group of bipartisan senators, including Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, reached an agreement on a bill to boost border security and help young people, known as DREAMers, who were brought to the country illegally as children.
The DREAMers were protected from deportation under an Obama-era program, which was ended by President Donald Trump. Their status is in question after the March 5 expiration date of the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“President Trump created a manufactured crisis when he ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” Cortez Masto said. “Now, thousands are losing their jobs, their status, and their livelihoods.”
The original promise appeared to be made to secure Flake’s vote for the GOP tax overhaul bill, which became law in December. The bipartisan group of senators said they had a deal the second week in January, but McConnell backed away from the promise after President Trump rejected the plan during the meeting when he said he asked why the nation was accepting immigrants from “shithole countries.”
Despite Cortez Masto’s misgivings, several lawmakers believe it would be more difficult for McConnell to renege on his promise because he made it in public and it extends to the Republicans who also want to act on the DACA issue.
“He’s on the record now committing to the entire Senate,” Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey said.
Flake also believes there will be action. “I know there will be earnest negotiations now more than there would otherwise have been,” he said, adding that the commitment is to move ahead irrespective of the White House’s position.
In the House, Democrats Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen all opposed the bill.
Titus said she opposed the measure because it does not address DACA and other issues that need to be tackled. “This latest short-term continuing resolution, the fourth since September, does not solve our problems, but simply kicks the can further down a dangerous road of instability and uncertainty.”
Rosen, who is running for the Senate seat of Republican Dean Heller, blamed the GOP for the shutdown and called for cooler bipartisan heads to prevail.
Kihuen, who announced his position before the vote echoed Cortez Masto’s concerns regarding McConnell.
“Unfortunately, this deal hinges upon the word of a senator with a long history of breaking his promises and going back on his word,” Kihuen said.
Republican Mark Amodei didn’t vote due to having meetings in the district, including a medical appointment. Before the government shut down, the House had been scheduled to be in recess.
“It’s no surprise that today’s vote was not close and that we’ll all have another opportunity to weigh in on these same exact issues, sadly, in 15 days,” Amodei said in an emailed statement. “At the end of the day, I’m pleased I was able to follow through on these meetings with folks back home. I was working in the district today and will continue to do so for the rest of the week.”