Sen. Bill Nelson voted against a short-term spending bill to keep the government running on Friday as the Florida Democrat balked at a proposal that did not include a solution for nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants who could face deportation in March if Congress fails to act.
Nelson remained undecided on his vote for over 24 hours after the House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill on Thursday night. Nelson’s office said on Thursday he would wait to see what the House passed before making a decision, but then the Florida Democrat did not make his vote public until giving his thumbs down on the Senate floor just before 10:30 pm.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needed Democratic support to keep the government open because a spending bill requires 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and Republicans control only 51 seats. The short-term spending bill only obtained 50 votes, leading to the first government shutdown since 2013.
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.
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Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016. Some of the red state Democratic senators like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin backed the short-term spending bill while others like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey did not.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted in favor of the bill along with most Senate Republicans. He blamed Senate Democrats for voting to shut down the government.
“At a time when we face so much chaos in our politics, the only thing worse than a short-term spending deal is a government shutdown. I too support border security, dealing with DACA, increasing defense spending and disaster relief for Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico,” Rubio said in a statement shortly before the vote. “We should keep the government open while we continue to work on these issues.”
Two Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also voted against the spending bill after arguing that it is irresponsible to keep stalling on the Dreamer issue.