The entire Queens Congressional delegation in the House voted against the temporary reopening of federal government operations from Jan. 24 to Feb. 8.
On January 20, the federal government shut down after U.S. Senators failed to pass another bill to extend government funding for the new fiscal year. Since October 1 of last year, federal lawmakers have passed three previous pieces of legislation to keep the federal agencies running.
The issue at heart is an Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It prevents deportation of roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants that came here as children, and whom most know only the United States as their home country. In September, the White House announced an end to DACA and forced Congress to come up with a permanent solution by March.
The Democratic Party, led by Senator and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), wanted an immediate solution in the fourth continuing resolution. Yet, with no agreement between parties, the government shutdown.
The government reopened after a Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised Schumer a vote on DACA in three weeks. With this, Congress passed a bill on January 22 to extend the government until February 8.
Yet the vote was met with controversy within the Democratic Party. While Schumer voted in favor of the January 22 bill, Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) and 15 other Senate Democrats voted against it. Meanwhile, 144 Democrats, including every Queens lawmaker, in the House of Representative voted against the bill.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth) said as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, she could not in good conscience vote for the fourth continuing resolution (CR), which is a temporary funding measure, put forth by Republican leadership since the fiscal year began four months ago.
“When Congress votes for a CR, our military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and every other federal agency cannot budget and plan effectively for the future. Can you imagine having to budget for your family via CR, never knowing… exactly how much money you’d have for the year? It is not cost effective to expect government agencies to operate under such uncertainty,” said Meng.
“I agree with what Defense Secretary James Mattis said only four months ago, that “Long term CRs impact the readiness of our force and their equipment at a time when security threats are extraordinarily high. The longer the CR, the greater the consequences for our force.” We cannot continue to put our military or government agencies at risk. The House and the Senate are currently controlled by a Republican Majority, and for the sake of our country, they need to plan for the long term and not govern by CR.
The short term nature of a CR also prevents Congress from providing long term funding for major priorities, including the opioid epidemic, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, disaster relief, and the fate of Dreamers. The vast majority of Americans want to see Congress pass legal protections for Dreamers. We hear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commit to bringing up legislation on DACA, and we need House Speaker Paul Ryan to do the same. It is far past time for the Republican Majority to stop kicking the can down the road and work with Democrats to address the priorities of the American people,” she added.
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island, Whitestone, Glen Oaks, Floral Park) he also voted against the measure and he shared Meng’s concerns with short-term solutions for long-term problems.
“They have a negative impact on our military and our economy. It’s imperative for Congress to pass a long-term, bipartisan spending bill that addresses immigration, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and allows our government to operate at full capacity,” said Suozzi.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, JFK Airport) called the measure not just bad for the country, but also for New Yorkers as well.
“Simply put, short-term spending bills are a disastrous way of funding our federal government. Such measures, and the uncertainty they produce, are a disservice to our hardworking civil servants and taxpayers,” he said.
U.S. Rep Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, parts of the Bronx), who also voted no, said Republicans have proven time and time again that they cannot govern.
“President Trump and GOP leaders lack a cohesive vision for this country, and as a result, we’re left lurching from deadline to deadline and crisis to crisis. That isn’t leadership, and it’s doing nothing to help lift up Americans, who deserve a functioning government.”