Senate to vote Thursday on Trump, Democratic plans to reopen government

Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York. (C-SPAN photo)

Mark Trahant

Longest government shutdown in history continues to threaten Native people, tribes, nonprofits

The Senate will vote on two competing plans to reopen the government Thursday. First the Senate will take up the president’s plan to fund the government, and, if that fails, the Senate would then vote on a three-week continuing resolution to fund about a quarter of the federal government through Feb. 8.

“We’ve heard members of Congress on all sides demanding a resolution to this impasse and a plan to quickly restore full funding to the federal government … and we now have a plan from the president that would do exactly that, and quickly,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “The opportunity to end all of this is staring us in the face.”

He said the president’s offer would “accomplish everything Democrats have said needs to be accomplished right now. It’s a strong proposal.”

Democrats disagree. But they are keen on getting a vote before the Senate.

“For the first time, we will get a vote on whether to open up the government without any decision, one way or the other, on border security,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer , D-New York, said on the Senate floor Tuesday night.

And so in the official language of the Senate “This will result in 2 cloture votes (60-vote thresholds) at 2:30 pm on Thursday on the President’s proposal and the Emergency Supplemental appropriations with a CR through February 8. A live quorum and subsequent vote on the motion to instruct the Sergeant at Arms to request the presence of absent senators is also possible for Thursday’s session.”

What does that mean? These are only test votes. It’s a procedural vote to see if either side can find 60 votes to end a potential filibuster. So Republicans will be looking for 7 votes from Democrats to move the president’s plan forward. And, conversely, Democrats will need 13 votes from Republicans in order to get to the next step, a consideration of the continuing resolution.

But if the Trump plan goes down -- as is likely -- there is a chance that Republicans would vote yes for a temporary spending plan because that would open up a window for President Donald J. Trump to give his State of the Union speech on Jan. 29. The Associated Press reported that the White House will go forward with the speech in front of a joint session of Congress, despite a request from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting a delay until after the government is reopened. The Washington Post said the White House is also looking at the president giving the speech before an audience at a different location.

But a short-term spending plan, funding the government until Feb. 8, could end that particular game. And it would be a mechanism for getting a paycheck to the more than 800,000 federal employees, as well as contractors including tribal governments. This week marks the second missed paycheck.

Meanwhile across the country, the impact of the government shutdown on Native communities continues to mount.

The Seattle Indian Health Board said it would reduce its clinic hours beginning Saturday.

According to KUOW, the health board will cut the number of substance abuse treatment beds at its Thunderbird Treatment Center. Abigail Echo-Hawk told KUOW that many health board programs rely on federal funding, including programs for traditional Indian medicine, meals, health care, and a safe space for about 90 mostly homeless elders.

“We are in a cash-flow crisis,” Darrell Seki, chairman of the Red Lake Nation in northern Minnesota told The Star Tribune. “But we are doing everything we can not to lay off people and to keep up services.”

Across the country there are numerous reports about Indian Health Service healthcare professionals continuing to work without pay.

In Washington state, the Makah Tribe is hit because the Coast Guard is a large employer in the area where its nation is located, the Neah Bay Station. The Coast Guard’s commandant said Tuesday it was “unacceptable” that members of the armed services should be forced to work without pay. “Thank you for continuing to stay on the watch,” Adm. Karl Schultz said in a Twitter video posted Tuesday, just days before hundreds of thousands of federal workers are expected to miss their second paychecks of the year. “We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay. You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”

One bit of good news: A recent Indian Country Today story mentioned a food bank for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Fort Hall, Idaho, and a child’s concerns that not all families had food at home. Since that story, the food bank received a $5,000 donation.

Now to get that word to Congress.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports


Indian Country Today interactive spreadsheets:

Impact of shutdown on tribal communities

Impact on individuals, nonprofits

Previous stories:

Debate about border, government shutdown moves to the Senate

Congress, White House remain far apart on border issues, so no end to shutdown

Mark Trahant talks #GovernmentShutdown and Indian Country on Democracy Now

The State of the Union postponed; speaker says first end the government shutdown

Congressional hearing looks at the impact of shutdown on Indian Country

President walks away from a Republican with a plan to reopen government

Waiting for a thaw in Washington

Out of touch? White House says unpaid workers are 'better off'

Tribal leaders say government closure puts citizens in jeopardy

Government Shutdown: Tribes suffer job losses, bad roads, no healthcare access