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ND senators, representative vote to reopen government

USA, Columbia, Washington DC, Capitol Building

BISMARCK -- Congress voted to reopen the federal government as members of North Dakota’s delegation offered their support Monday, Jan. 22, in favor of a short-term spending deal.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was among a handful of red-state Democrats to break with the rest of the party last week in supporting a budget deal. She and other Senate Democrats, along with almost every Republican senator, voted Monday to reopen the government after Republicans committed to addressing the status of young undocumented immigrants, the Washington Post reported.

The deal funds the government through Feb. 8 and includes a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Heitkamp, who was counted among a bipartisan group of about 25 senators working over the weekend to bridge a compromise, said there is now “very much a willingness to roll up our sleeves and get back to work.” Still, she said the shutdown was “not a way to govern.”

“What we spent a lot of time talking about, beyond kind of opening up government and the dreamers, was a process for appropriations that would actually work, which I really haven’t seen since I’ve been here,” Heitkamp said.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., hopes Congress won’t face another shutdown in just a few weeks, arguing that there was no reason for the weekend’s impasse.

“In essence, Democrats are voting for the same funding measure that they voted against last week,” he said. “The only difference is they shortened it a week.”

But Heitkamp said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to take up the Obama-era program providing protections for those who came into the country illegally as children, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was instrumental in getting a deal. In September, President Donald Trump ordered that program’s end and kicked the issue to Congress.

“We’re going to have to obviously find a solution for DACA, but that also means we’re going to have to have the border security provision so that we don’t end up in this situation again,” Hoeven said.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said Monday afternoon he voted for the spending deal, which quickly passed the House by a 266-150 margin, after the Senate vote. He said Congress should “get to work on an immigration plan and a funding plan.”

Heitkamp’s office previously said she would donate her salary during the shutdown to the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way in Bismarck, while Hoeven said he would give his to the North Dakota National Guard Foundation. Cramer said he’ll donate his to the Honor Flight.

Heitkamp didn’t expect a bill she and other Democrats introduced to withhold congressional pay during a shutdown to come up for a vote.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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