Mich. delegation plays blame game in shutdown showdown

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — As the federal government appeared headed for a partial closing at midnight Friday, Michigan’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers debated who would be to blame for a shutdown.

The Republican-controlled House passed a four-week funding resolution late Thursday to continue operating the government, but the U.S. Senate didn’t have the votes to pass it without Democratic support. There are 51 Republicans, but 60 votes are needed to avoid a filibuster and proceed to a funding vote.

Nevertheless, the Senate scheduled a late-night vote on the plan.

Some Senate Republicans including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had said they would vote against the House-passed funding resolution.

Sens. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing were among the Democrats who intended to vote against the resolution. Peters is concerned in part about the lack of a long-term agreement to fund the military.

“It is the most basic responsibility of Congress to keep the federal government open and operating, but for far too long, we have lurched from deadline to deadline,” Peters said in a statement.

“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.”

A spokeswoman for Stabenow said the senator is “focused on working with Republicans and Democrats to reach a long-term solution on government funding and believes that kicking the can down the road is hurting Michigan and is no way to do business.”

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, took a shot late Thursday at Stabenow, who is running for re-election this year, after the House approved the short-term funding bill, noting the legislation included a six-year extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that expired.

“The vast majority of Democrats in Washington seem more interested in playing political games than delivering results,” Huizenga said in a statement.

“For weeks, Senator Stabenow has discussed the importance of funding CHIP. Now, she will have the opportunity to do so for six years while supporting our troops. Failing to support this legislation will harm our military readiness, shut down the government, and prove the prior social media posts and statements made by Senator Stabenow to be nothing more than a political ploy.”

Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, pushed back, calling Stabenow a champion of children’s health care who’s been fighting “tirelessly” to ensure CHIP and community health centers are funded.

“Bill Huizenga should stop making excuses for why Republicans are holding the health and well-being of children hostage and instead do the right thing for our state and country by joining with Democrats in Congress to fund CHIP without delay or partisan ultimatums,” Dillon said.

House leaders advised members — who were set to leave town for a weeklong recess Friday — to “remain flexible” in the case additional votes are called.

At the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, said he interpreted the leadership’s guidance about being “flexible” to mean, don’t head home just yet. He instructed his office to reserve the latest flight out Friday or the first one Saturday morning.

“So if the Senate does something, we’re here to respond to it,” Trott said. “We’re trying to act strong in the face of the Senate’s inaction but also not have people flying back and forth.”

Trott unequivocally blamed President Donald Trump for the potential government shutdown.

“I think it’s the president’s fault. He hasn’t led. No question in my mind about that. He hasn’t led on this or many other issues,” said Trott, who is retiring at the end of the year.

“People say the voters are going to blame the Democrats or the Republicans. That’s ridiculous. The voters are not going to get that far into the weeds to understand the nuance of where we are. So we’ll all get blamed but mostly the Republican administration will get blamed — as they should.”

Democratic lawmakers in the House almost all voted against Thursday’s continuing resolution. Democrats want any legislation that funds the government to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects the children of undocumented immigrants from potential deportation.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said House lawmakers should stay in town until they can come to a resolution.

“We should stay here and prepare to act on a moment’s notice. There’s too much at stake,” Kildee said.

He lamented that Republicans had written their budget bill “in secret” and left Democrats out of the process, while not having a “real” discussion about budgetary spending caps and what to include in the domestic agenda.

“The budget deal does not reflect the values of the country. Eighty-seven percent of the people want us to do something about Dreamers, but we also need a deal that deals with the real priorities,” Kildee said.

“We can’t be in a position when we continue to go week to week on temporary funding. It will only stop if we force the issue. Force Democrats and Republicans — especially Republican leadership — to sit down and negotiate something that the American people want to see. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”

Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney noted at a Friday briefing that Democrats blamed Republicans for the 16-day shutdown in October 2013 when the GOP was demanding changes to the Affordable Care Act as part of a government funding solution.

He said Democrats should take the blame for a shutdown for trying to link a non-financial issue (immigration) to the government’s funding.

“They don’t oppose anything in the bill, but they are opposing the bill,” Mulvaney said at the White House. “I just want to let everybody know that we don’t want this. We do not want a shutdown.”

Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, was wondering whether he’d get home to Michigan in time for his son’s basketball game Friday night.

“We’ve done our work,” Moolenaar said. “It’s really in the Senate’s court to do something. We do have a deadline tonight and hopefully they’re going to get their work done. I’m hopeful there can be a resolution to this.”

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