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For dreamers, budget vote a nightmare

ST. PAUL—Liberal immigration supporters are furious at Democratic U.S. senators, including Minnesota's two, for favoring a short-term federal budget deal that does not maintain a program they favor.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith on Monday, Jan. 22, joined 79 other senators of both parties to end a federal government shutdown that began Saturday. On an 81-18 vote, senators voted to extend the the federal government budget through Feb. 8.

The Senate legislation, which quickly passed the House 266-150, did not contain provisions to continue a law that allows immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as dreamers, to remain in the country. That infuriated supporters of the provision.

Denver retiree Rebecca Gray wrote on social media: "Amy Klobuchar, you have all the signs of treason. "

St. Paul immigration lawyer Kara Lynum‏ tweeted to Smith: "I was at your press conference where you said you support Minnesota's dreamers. You lied to all of our faces—even after hearing their moving stories."

Klobuchar has been part of a bipartisan group of about 20 senators trying to work out a deal, and said she voted in favor of the short-term budget measure because "we are in a much better place than we were a week ago or a month ago" both on budget issues and dreamers legislation.

She said that backers of the dreamer action did not have a commitment from GOP leaders when the shutdown approached on Friday, but with public Republican promises to hold a vote on the issue as part of the shutdown-ending talks, Klobuchar said she is confident senators will take a vote.

The 20 senators, basically the same as worked to end a 2013 shutdown, "played a major role in bringing down the temperature some," Klobuchar said in an interview, although the final decision came down to Republican and Democratic leaders.

"We were able to go back and forth with the leaders," Klobuchar said.

The New York Times wrote about the senators, which include Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

The Times reported Klobuchar is among the "stalwart moderates of the Senate, and Ms. Klobuchar's name is often found on lists of likely Democratic contenders for the presidency in 2020."

Smith defended her vote, saying that Republicans agreed to take up the dreamers issue. "Today I voted to reopen the government, to continue negotiations on a comprehensive budget bill important to Minnesota and our country and in favor of an agreement for the Senate to take up legislation to stop hundreds of thousands of dreamers from facing deportation."

She said she is pleased the legislation, which funds the government until Feb. 8, pays for a children health insurance program and prepares the way for a longer-term federal budget.

Many of Minnesota's members of Congress said they would not accept pay for time the federal government was closed, and Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan introduced legislation to ban any member from being paid during a shutdown. Democratic Reps. Tim Walz and Betty McCollum were among members to introduce a bill requiring military personnel to be paid in a shutdown.

Minnesota ranked last on a WalletHub list of how states were affected by the 2018 government shutdown, in part for its low share of federal jobs (49th place) and low percentage of children under the Children Health Insurance Program (51th).

About 1 percent of Minnesota's workforce of nearly 1.87 million people is employed by the federal government.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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