DENVER – Congress voted Thursday to pass a continuing spending bill that will fund the federal government through Jan. 19 when it is signed by President Trump, but all of Colorado’s Democratic delegation voted against the measure, saying Congress should stay and extend programs for young immigrants and children’s health insurance before going home for the holidays.
In the House, Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis voted against another funding extension, while Sen. Michael Bennet made the same choice in the Senate. All four House Republicans and Sen. Cory Gardner voted in favor of the temporary package.
Fourteen House Democrats voted to pass the measure out of the House in a 231-188 vote, though enough Republicans (217) voted in favor of the bill to pass on its own. In the Senate, 17 Democrats supported the continuing resolution in the eventual 66-32 vote. The Senate needed 60 votes to pass the measure.
In addition to keeping intact funding for much of the federal government, the stopgap measure provides money for a VA program allowing veterans to seek outside care and a short-term funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through March. Money for a program allowing overseas wiretapping and the tracking of terrorism suspects was also included.
But most Democrats and some Republicans who voted against the measure said they did so because it didn't include the Dream Act, which would extend permanent residency for Dreamers who meet certain standards, nor a CHIP extension, which provides health insurance assistance for around 9 million children across the U.S.
Many of those voting against the bill argued there was more time to put together a deal for Dreamers and CHIP recipients ahead of Friday's 11:59 p.m. deadline for a shutdown.
“There was time left to negotiate. It’s too bad that the pull of jet fumes to get home for the holiday got in the way," Bennet told Denver7.
Ahead of the vote, Bennet implored Senate leadership to include in the final spending measure the KIDS Act five-year CHIP extension that both he and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., are cosponsoring. Gardner also said he hoped that would be done, but said he would agree to the short-term extension through March.
Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee on Thursday approved money for the state’s CHP+ program, which is funded partially by CHIP money, to run through February, as it’s unclear if the March CHIP extension expected to be signed by President Trump will do enough to help Colorado.
But congressional Democrats from Colorado said they would rather have stayed in Washington and gotten a full multi-year extension for the program, and for DACA.
“Though no one wants to see a shutdown, I can’t in good conscience support something that does not adequately fund #CHIP and neglects #Dreamers. Coloradans and all Americans deserve better,” DeGette said in a tweet.
Perlmutter, Polis and Bennet all went after Republicans for putting together the tax cut bill this month, which polls say is generally unpopular among a majority of Americans, instead of funding CHIP or DACA.
Perlmutter said he was “disgusted” with Republicans leaving Washington, “kicking the can down the road without completing any of Congress’ important work” and called for CHIP, DACA and community health center funding, adding that the GOP “left behind” Americans this year.
Polis said Congress had “skipped town.”
“I thought we all learned in grade-school that there’s no recess before finishing our work,” he said. “Congress should have stayed in session instead of creating a new potential government shutdown in January.”
“The Republican majority has spent the past month on a tax bill that is completely out of touch with the priorities of hardworking Americans. Now, in the face of a looming shutdown, they claim that there is not enough to time to help the Dreamers who stand to lose their DACA status or the millions of children and families who stand to lose their health insurance,” Bennet said in a written statement to Denver7.
“We should stay here and finish our work, rather than abdicating our responsibility and leaving so many Coloradan families in the lurch,” Bennet continued. “In the nine years I’ve been in Congress, we have kicked the can down the road too many times, failing to solve the challenges of the people we represent. No school board, city council, or county commission in Colorado would operate in this manner, and neither should we. I could not support a bill that, once again, takes this approach.”
The resolution now sits at the president’s desk. He is expected to sign the measure Friday, along with the GOP tax cut bill. Congress will have to come up with another spending resolution before the end of Jan. 19, and there is growing pressure in Congress to fund the full rest of the budget year, rather than passing another stopgap measure.