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End to government shutdown in sight as Dems halt filibuster (UPDATE)

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sped toward reopening the government on Monday, as Senate Democrats dropped their objections to a temporary spending  bill in return for assurances from Republicans leaders that they will soon take up immigration and other contentious matters.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to quickly tackling the issue of immigrant “Dreamers” was contingent on Democrats’ providing enough votes now for a stopgap spending plan lasting a little less than three weeks. The proposal needs 60 votes.

In  the end, Democrats provided 33 of the 81 it got. Eighteen senators, including members of both parties, were opposed.

Before the government can reopen, the Senate must vote on the plan, the House then must approve it, and President Donald Trump must sign it.

Democrats climbed onboard after two days of negotiations that ended with new reassurances from  McConnell that the Senate would consider immigration proposals in the coming weeks.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer lent his backing to the agreement during a speech on the chamber’s floor.

“Now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate,” he said of legislation meant to halt the deportation of “Dreamers,” who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally.

The White House downplayed McConnell’s commitment, and said Democrats caved under pressure. “They blinked,” Raj Shah, principal deputy press secretary, told CNN.

Earlier Monday, McConnell raised hopes for a quick end to the shutdown, saying “I hope and intend” to reach agreement soon on immigration and other contentious issues — if the Democrats would agree to the stopgap spending plan.

A block of liberal Democrats — some of them 2020 presidential hopefuls — stuck to their opposition. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey voted no, as did Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Feinstein said she wasn’t persuaded by McConnell’s assurances and did not know how a proposal to protect the more than 700,000 younger immigrants would fare in the House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told “Fox and Friends” Monday that if the Senate approved a temporary spending bill to reopen the government through Feb. 8, the House would approve it, too.

The Senate vote came as most government offices cut back greatly or even closed on Monday, as the biggest effects of the shutdown were first being felt with the beginning of the workweek.

McConnell said he hoped to reach bipartisan plans for immigration, border security, disaster aid, military spending and more by Feb. 8. If not, he said “it would be my intention to take up legislation” dealing with those issues.

The Senate over the weekend inched closer but ultimately fell short of a deal that could have reopened the government before the beginning of the workweek. McConnell and Schumer said negotiations lasted late into the night.

On Sunday night, Democrats appeared to be holding out for a firmer commitment from McConnell. “We have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward,” Schumer said then.

There were hours of behind-the-scenes talks over the weekend between the leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers over how to end the display of legislative dysfunction, which began at midnight Friday after Democrats blocked a temporary spending measure. Democrats have sought to use the spending bill to win concessions, including protections for roughly 700,000 younger immigrants.

Republicans have appeared increasingly confident that Democrats are bearing the brunt of criticism for the shutdown and that they will ultimately buckle. The White House and GOP leaders said they would not negotiate with Democrats on immigration until the government was reopened.

President Trump on Monday accused Democrats of prioritizing services and security for noncitizens over U.S. citizens. “Not good,” his first tweet said. In a second tweet, he said, “Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don’t want to do it but are powerless!”

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