Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she was “very disappointed” about the deal Democrats reached to reopen the federal government Monday.
The California Democrat was one of just 18 senators – including 16 Democrats – who voted against the short-term spending measure to fund the government through Feb. 8, which ends the government shutdown that began Friday night. The vote came after Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he’d secured a promise from Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote by Feb. 8 to protect young undocumented immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump announced last fall he would shutter the program March 5.
The Senate, however, does not have any guarantee that a potential DACA deal will get a vote in the House, where Republicans have a stronger majority than in the Senate.
The Bee asked Feinstein if her “no” vote reflected the lack of a guarantee that Congress will pass legislation protecting DACA participants, who are at risk of losing their work permits and facing deportation if the program is not extended. “I’d hoped this would be doable, I’d hoped this would pass,” the Democratic senator replied. “It seemed to make the best sense. It didn’t, so we’ll go on from here.”
Shortly before the Senate vote, Feinstein issued a statement stipulating her conditions for supporting a bill to end the shutdown. “The solution,” she said, “is simple: a vote on the Dream Act as an amendment to a must-pass vehicle or lock in an iron-clad agreement that the Democratic caucus agrees with that would pass in the shortest time possible.
Feinstein and other Democrats had been under intense pressure from immigrants rights’ advocates and other liberal groups not to vote for another short-term spending deal, which have been keeping the government funded since the fiscal year ended in September.
Monday morning, a coalition of left-leaning groups urged Democrats to stand strong against efforts to reopen the government, absent a long-term deal to authorize DACA and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as to increase funding for the military and domestic programs.
Americans “want a final solution and we can get it done with Democratic unity,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the powerful Service Employees International Union. “Mitch McConnell’s empty promises are not to be believed,” added Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “The progressive movement is unified and … feel intensely strongly that Democrats must continue to stand strong now.”
Democrats, however, ended up splitting their votes. And Feinstein, who is facing a primary challenge from the left this year, voted with a liberal minority in her party. Her 2018 opponent, State Senate President pro tem Kevin De León, has attacked Feinstein for not taking a tough enough stand in defense of DACA recipients, millions of whom live in California.
“Until recently, her natural inclination is to be anti-immigrant,” De León told The Bee last week. “She switches now because she has a primary challenge.”
California’s junior senator, Kamala Harris, also voted against the spending bill. One of the most vocal immigrant advocates in the Senate, Harris said in a statement that McConnell’s promise on DACA “fell far short of the ironclad guarantee I needed to support a stopgap spending bill. I refuse to put the lives of nearly 700,000 young people in the hands of someone who has repeatedly gone back on his word.”