Congress just set up another government shutdown deadline
- The Senate voted to reopen the government on Monday.
- The deal will create another shutdown deadline — this time on February 8.
- The next shutdown fight could be even more contentious as Congress nears a deadline for a key immigration program.
The Senate on Monday finally voted to end the federal government shutdown by passing a short-term funding bill, with a deal that will keep the government open through February 8 in addition to addressing other issues with the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
But the short-term nature of the deal leaves open the possibility that the battle could repeat itself just three weeks from now.
By the next deadline, policy analysts say, the two parties will see even less agreement. That could make the next fight even more fraught.
"A vote to reopen the government today could be a fake-out," Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, said in an email following the Senate vote. "It simply would postpone a bitter fight over immigration, which will be very difficult to resolve by early February."
The linchpin in the Senate agreement on Monday was a guarantee from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider legislation to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program.
The Obama-era program protects from deportation nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors. President Donald Trump said he would end the program as it existed in September, but gave Congress until March 5 to pass a bill to enshrine the program into law.
While leaders from both parties have expressed a desire to protect DACA recipients, progress has been minimal toward a deal to permanently solve the issue.
"Too early to declare winners or losers as this is truly just a cease fire. The same fiscal fight will restart in February and the next iteration will be far more contentious given new dynamics in the immigration debate and the return of the debt ceiling," said Isaac Boltansky, an analyst at Compass Point.
For instance, Trump told a meeting of lawmakers from both parties earlier this month that he would "sign anything" Congress passed. But when Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham released a bipartisan bill, the White House said Trump opposed it.
Given the lack of progress, solving the issue within three weeks — and in turn avoiding another shutdown — seems like a difficult prospect, Valliere said.
"Both parties are dominated by hard-liners on immigration, and the president seems clueless on the key issues," he told Business Insider. "So this is not resolved, not by a long shot."
The deal also cleared the decks of another piece of significant leverage for the GOP: the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Republicans added CHIP, which provides healthcare coverage to about 9 million children, to the funding bill as an incentive to get Democratic votes. Many moderate Democrats in states Trump won in 2016 cited the CHIP funding as a primary reason for their support of the deal.
But without this pressure point in the next funding legislation, the focus on DACA will be close to exclusive if Republicans can't attach another Democratic request.
"Nothing in this legislation gives me any confidence that in three weeks Congress won’t end up exactly where we are today," Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez told reporters.
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