McConnell: No Government Shutdown This Week Over Immigration

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., answers a reporters question during a news conference on Dec. 2, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (Timothy D. Easley / AP)

Testing the resolve of Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared Sunday there won’t be a government shutdown this week over the question of protecting immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, describing it as a “non-emergency” to be addressed next year.

“There’s not going to be a government shutdown. It’s just not going to happen,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

House GOP leaders unveiled a short-term plan over the weekend to avert a shutdown and keep the government open through Dec. 22. The measure would buy time for bipartisan talks on a bigger budget agreement that would give the Pentagon and government agencies significant relief from a pending budget freeze.

Congress faces a Friday deadline to fund the government through the end of next September.

Democrats and a few Republicans have suggested they may not vote for government funding without the protections for tens of thousands of young immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who are currently protected by an Obama administration program. That program is set to expire in March.

Meanwhile, some Republicans are divided over what programs the government should pay for, and how much.

GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida has joined Democrats on the immigration issue, while Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he received commitments from party leaders and the administration to work with him on restoring “Dreamer” protections in exchange for his vote early Saturday on the tax overhaul bill.

President Donald Trump backs the immigration safeguards despite issuing an executive order reversing the Obama-era protections, officially called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Talks on a budget agreement are likely to restart this week after a setback last week when top Democrats pulled out of a meeting with Trump after he attacked them on Twitter.

On Sunday, McConnell insisted the GOP-controlled Congress will be able to keep the government running, calling the demand for action on DACA by year’s end “ridiculous.”

“I don’t think the Democrats would be very smart to say they want to shut down the government over a non-emergency that we can address anytime between now and March,” McConnell said. “There is no crisis.”

By Hope Yen for CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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