Bill Nelson votes to reopen the federal government without an immigration deal

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson was part of a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans who switched their vote on Monday to agree to a short-term spending bill that reopens the federal government in exchange for a debate and vote on a legislative solution for nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants known as Dreamers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not commit to a deal or compromise for Dreamers, something that many Democrats previously said was a condition for reopening the government after it shut down on Friday night. The House of Representatives and President Donald Trump must also approve the plan.

The final vote tally was 81-18, with the majority of Democrats joining with the majority of Republicans to pass a bill that keeps the federal government open until Feb. 8. Most of the No votes came from the most liberal Democratic senators and a few senators who are weighing a 2020 presidential bid.

“So long as the government remains open it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues as well as disaster relief, defense funding, healthcare and other important matters,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to McConnell’s offer to reopen the government, but stressed that a solution for immigrants would be of paramount importance in the coming weeks. McConnell did not make any guarantees on passing a solution for Dreamers. He merely committed to debate and vote on the issue. Dreamers could face deportation in March if Congress fails to act, and any explicit compromise would likely face resistance from conservative Republicans in the House.

“The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the Dreamers from being deported,” Schumer said.

Nelson gave a litany of reasons why continued short-term spending bills were bad for Florida, though he avoided explicitly criticizing Republicans and talking about immigration.

“These short-term funding bills are hurting our national security and, at some point, we have a responsibility to say enough is enough,” Nelson tweeted. “Now efforts have intensified at a bipartisan solution. I am hopeful that an agreement may be reached in the next couple of days.” He also added that the short-term spending bill did not address disaster relief for Florida after Hurricane Irma.

Nelson was one of six Democrats up for reelection in 2018 who voted against a short-term spending bill to keep the government open on Friday night. He remained undecided on his vote until the last minute Friday, remaining mum on his intentions until giving his thumbs down on the Senate floor.

The government shutdown on Friday occurred after McConnell received only 50 votes for a short-term spending bill. A spending bill in the Senate requires 60 votes, meaning McConnell needs the support of some Democrats to pass a bill.

Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat from Florida, faced pressure from immigration activists to join the more liberal wing of his party to vote against a short-term spending bill without a solution for Dreamers.

Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in states won by Trump in 2016 and he faces a likely challenge from Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted in favor of the bill along with most Senate Republicans. He spent the past three days blaming Senate Democrats for voting to shut down the government.

Polls on the government shutdown showed mixed messages for Senate Democrats like Nelson on whether Republicans or Democrats were to blame.