Massachusetts Democrats Split on Non-DREAMer Spending Bill

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By Michael P. Norton

Enough Democrats compromised with Republicans to enable the U.S. House of Representatives early Friday to pass a major spending bill that prevented an imminent government shutdown but did not include protections from deportation for immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The final vote was 240-186, with 167 Republicans and 73 Democrats voting for the legislation, while 67 Republicans and 119 Democrats voted against.

The all-Democrat Massachusetts delegation was split.

U.S. Representatives William Keating, Stephen Lynch, and Niki Tsongas voted for the deal.

U.S. Representatives Michael Capuano, Katherine Clark, Joseph Kennedy III, James McGovern, Seth Moulton, and Richard Neal voted against the measure.

U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren voted “no” when the measure cleared the Senate 71-28.

The major funding commitments come on the heels of passage of a massive tax cut law, adding to the concerns of those worried about fiscal responsibility.

Democrats who opposed the bill were disappointed that it did not protect “dreamers,” or those who remain in the U.S. after moving here illegally as children.

On Beacon Hill, lawmakers and Baker administration officials who spent last year trying to fend off federal spending cuts will now spend time sifting through the bill to learn exactly how the new investments will affect Massachusetts residents and state programs that rely on federal funds.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said $160 billion in the bill will be used “to rebuild a military that’s in decline.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who signaled a Senate immigration debate next week, also emphasized the need for military investment, saying “the crisis in our military is acute.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said President Donald Trump “says he will sign” the legislation.

Ryan said the bill also includes funds to fight opioids, recover from hurricanes and wildfires, and extend health care programs.

Importantly, Ryan said, a two-year budget deal will enable Congress to “step off this carousel of short-term funding bills” and focus on other issues.

“My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment,” Ryan said. “We will solve this DACA problem.”

In a statement, U.S. Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose applauded the bill’s spending measures, including funding for community health centers, but indicated she voted against it because Ryan “refuses to bring any immigration legislation forward even though there are bipartisan immigration bills drafted and waiting.”

Clark said, “He has created a false choice between moving forward with a budget bill and protecting our Dreamers. I refuse to accept that in order to address our most urgent priorities we must leave hundreds of thousands of Dreamers behind.”

Families USA, an advocacy organization, said the bill included “problematic cuts to the Medicare program as well as the Prevention and Public Health Fund,” but extended funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

The 5:30 a.m. vote in the House followed a Senate vote at about 2 a.m. to pass the spending measures, including one funding the government until March 23.