Michigan senators will vote against GOP's short-term budget

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both D-Mich., will vote against a short-term budget proposal made by Republicans to keep government open past a midnight deadline. 

With a shutdown looming, Peters' office confirmed just before noon that the senator would vote against the plan approved by the U.S. House on Thursday. Later, Stabenow's office said she would vote against the proposal as well.

Both had previously voted for a short-term budget proposal passed late last year to keep government open. 

“I would support a continuing resolution that keeps the government open and allows several more days to reach a long-term budget agreement, but I cannot vote for (a plan) that only perpetuates this broken budget process," said Peters. The Republican proposal would extend government funding until mid-February. 

With both Michigan senators prepared to vote down the plan, it appeared that Senate Republicans, needing at least nine Democrats to back the proposal, do not have the support required to pass it.

Democrats are balking at voting on yet another short-term budget fix without Republicans making a firm proposal on how to protect people brought into the U.S. as children by undocumented immigrants and now facing deportation by the Trump administration.

Efforts to produce a bipartisan immigration plan were dealt a severe blow last week after reports that President Donald Trump, in meeting with members of Congress, rejected a plan that could have protected the so-called Dreamers and objected to proposals that led to continued immigration from what he was said to refer to as "shithole" countries. 

Republican leaders in Congress, however, are arguing that the Democrats are needlessly forcing a shutdown, since negotiations on immigration can continue independently of funding for the government. 

Peters disagreed, saying Republicans have falled to meet "the most basic responsibility of Congress." 

"For far too long, we have lurched from deadline to deadline," Peters said. "No organization or business would plan a budget month by month, and Congress shouldn’t either. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Homeland Security Committee, I am deeply concerned that the lack of a budget agreement jeopardizes America’s security – both abroad and here at home."

Peters said he had earlier supported a short-term resolution "so both parties would have more time to negotiate a long-term budget framework" and address issues such as funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, disaster aid for Puerto Rico and protections for the so-called Dreamers, but that those issues are still unaddressed.

"It is past time for Congress to take action," he said.

Stabenow's office said she is working with members of both parties to reach a long term solution on government funding but believes that another short-term plan is "no way to do business." 

If a shutdown occurs late Friday, the effects of it are not likely to be felt until Monday when most government employees would return to work. Under modern rules for shutdowns, most functions deemed essential ¡ such as law enforcement, national security and even processing Social Security and Medicare benefits — remain in place, even though some workers performing those tasks may not be paid until a budget deal is reached.

Border patrol agents would remain on duty, taxes would still be collected and veterans hospitals would still be staffed. But in other cases, workers deemed non-essential — such as Forest Service workers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel and U.S. Census employees — could be sent home.  

In the last shutdown in 2013, which lasted slightly more than two weeks, about half of the 5,000 or so members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1658, who work as civilian employees at the Army’s Tank Automotive Command in Warren and at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, were sent home, said the union's president, Paul Veselenak.

"I’ve been advising my foks that if there is a shutdown, they can’t automatically expect to be paid. We don’t know," Veselenak said Friday. "(And) If government employees are not getting paid or if there is uncertainty about whether they are going to get paid, it creates a lot of uncertainty."

After the last shutdown, Congress funded back pay for workers who had been furloughed as well as for those who were required to work throughout it. Meanwhile, a shutdown could result in the curtailment of some programs, such as those under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, depending on the level of available funding.

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© 2018 Detroit Free Press


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