Much of the fight between Republicans and Democrats over shutting down the U.S. government hinged on immigration, and, in particular, striking a deal to protect hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to this country as children.
So it’s easy to see why U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono — who immigrated with her mother to the U.S. from Japan when Hirono was a child — voted the way she did Monday on a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb. 8 while lawmakers continue to wrestle over a compromise.
She said no, or, in D.C. parlance, “Nay.”
From left, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Mazie Hirono
Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat
“There are battles worth fighting,” Hirono said in a statement issued shortly after the Senate voted 81-18 to end the government shutdown. “Protecting DREAMers, reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, funding Community Health Centers, and providing parity between funding for defense and domestic priorities — without pitting on against the other — were battles worth fighting.”
The four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation split their votes Monday when the Senate and then the House voted to end the shutdown with the promise of later negotiations on immigration. President Trump signed the continuing resolution, and the federal government is back in business.
Sen. Brian Schatz voted for the continuing resolution. So, too, did Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, whose vote put her in the minority of House Democrats. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted against it.
In an interview with Civil Beat, Hanabusa summed up her “yes” vote with a simple statement: “I always vote Hawaii.”
“When I weighed the situation, I erred in favor of our working people who are dependent on our government remaining open.” — Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa
The congresswoman said she received numerous phone calls and text messages from federal workers, and in particular those in the military, who were worried about when they would see their next paycheck if the government shutdown continued beyond the weekend.
She noted that there are more than 70,000 federal employees in the state — including about 40,000 active-duty military personnel — as well as many private businesses that rely on U.S. government contracts.
“This is the end of the month, so for a lot of people this was a matter of, ‘How am I going to pay my mortgage?’” Hanabusa said. “I was voting for the continuing resolution to get our people back to work and making them feel like they’re safe.”
While Hanabusa said she fundamentally disagrees with temporarily funding the government through continuing resolutions, she thinks the recent impasse could provide a unique opportunity for compromise.
She pointed out that the resolution expires in early February, which means lawmakers don’t have an unlimited amount of time to come together.
“I may vote again against the CR as I have in the past,” Hanabusa said. “But when I weighed the situation, I erred in favor of our working people who are dependent on our government remaining open and also for the public who rely on the government remaining open.”
In a brief press statement explain his “yes” vote, Schatz also focused on getting people back to work and the possibility of a bipartisan immigration solution.
“The end of this brief shutdown means that federal workers — and the people they serve and protect — are no longer being harmed,” Schatz said. “It also means that for the first time under Republican control, we have the chance to move forward on the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform.”
Gabbard sided with the majority of House Democrats by voting against the continuing resolution.
Like Hanabusa, Gabbard philosophically opposes temporarily funding the government, and in a statement issued after Monday’s vote, noted that it can hinder military readiness and prevent long-term planning that’s built around a stable year-long budget.
Like her colleagues, Gabbard also wants to find a permanent solution to DACA, and ensure that children health programs and community health centers are funded.
“Until we actually work together to solve the challenges our country is facing, people in Hawai’i and across the country will continue to suffer,’ Gabbard said. “We need a real solution, not the same old broken status quo.”
All of the Hawaii delegates seem to be cautiously optimistic that Republican leaders will follow through on the promise to negotiate on DACA and immigration before the continuing resolution expires in three weeks.
“There is no question that an open debate on immigration will be a knock-down, drag-out fight,” Hirono said.
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