Five Democratic senators from states that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 broke with party leadership late Friday and voted for a spending plan to avert a federal government shutdown.
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson — up for re-election this year in a state Trump carried by 1.2 percentage points over Hillary Clinton — was not among them.
With Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., insisting the measure include protections against deportation for young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents, Nelson and most of the Democratic caucus voted to block consideration of a stopgap spending measure that would have kept the government running for four more weeks.
With 60 votes needed under Senate rules, the motion fell short with only 50 votes. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio joined most of the Republican caucus in voting for the measure while four Republicans opposed it. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also cast a “no” vote for procedural reasons to allow him to bring the measure up again.)
Four of the five Democrats who broke ranks — Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — are up for re-election this year in states Trump won in 2016. The fifth Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones of deep-red Alabama, won an upset special election over Roy Moore last month and faces re-election in 2020.
Said Nelson: “These short-term funding bills are hurting our national security and, at some point, we have a responsibility to say enough is enough. Now efforts have intensified at a bipartisan solution. I am hopeful that an agreement may be reached in the next couple of days.”
Republicans hoping to unseat Nelson this year pounced on his vote.
“Bill Nelson proved yet again tonight that his loyalty lies with Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, not with Florida,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ellie Hockenbury. “By participating in such blatant political games, Bill Nelson voted against our service members and children’s health care. Floridians won’t forget this betrayal when they go to the polls in November.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also piled on in a statement just before midnight: “Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown. Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans. We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
Nelson’s expected 2018 opponent, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, tweeted late Friday night that “Washington needs to do its job and keep the federal government running. A government shutdown is not fair to Florida taxpayers.”