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Iowa's Senators Support President's Plan To Reopen Government, Fund Wall

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Iowa's congressional delegation is split along party lines on how to re-open the federal government.

Iowa’s U.S. Senators voted Thursday for President Donald Trump's plan to reopen the government in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. The measure would also extend protections to some immigrants facing deportation, protections the president himself rolled back.

The measure failed to pass, as did a bill from Democrats to reopen the government without wall funding. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley supports the president's plan, which he calls a "compromise." But speaking with reports Thursday, Grassley suggested the president may need to walk back some of his demands.

“I don’t understand what is so difficult to get to put this together, get something passed and get it to the president," he said. "And if it can’t be exactly what the president laid down Saturday night I’m sure somebody has told the president, ‘you may have to compromise a little bit more’!”

Iowa's junior U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst also supported the president's plan in Thursday's vote.

"The End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act is a commonsense compromise that would fund critical federal agencies and enhance border security to help curb human trafficking and the transport of illegal weapons and drugs into communities in Iowa, and across the nation," Ernst said in a written statement.

Now in its fifth week, economists estimate the shutdown has cost $6 billion in economic losses so far. Some senators broke party lines in voting for the measures, including some lawmakers who face fierce re-election contests in toss-up states.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., all voted for both the president's plan and the Democrats'.

Meanwhile the House of Representatives has passed multiple measures to re-open government agencies, all considered non-starters in the Republican-led Senate. The Democratic members of Iowa's congressional delegation have all supported each of the bills, while the state's lone Republican in the House, Rep. Steve King, has voted against each of them.

In a written statement Rep. Dave Loebsack, the state's senior member in the House, called the shutdown shameful.

"For over a month now, portions of the government have been needlessly shut down because of political games and, as of tomorrow, over 800,000 government workers face missing their second pay check. Congress must put aside the games and work to reopen the government. Hardworking Iowans cannot afford to be caught in the middle of the White House and Senator McConnell’s games," Loebsack said in a written statement. "It is beyond unacceptable that we are in the position in the first place, and the fact that it has now lasted over a month is shameful."

Meanwhile media reports suggest the shutdown may continue for weeks, as White House officials are reportedly asking federal agencies how much they’d be affected if the shutdown lasts into March or April, according to the Washington Post.

Grassley says the government shutdown can’t end soon enough for farmers. When asked how soon the government would need to reopen in order to help producers get ready for spring planting, Grassley said:

“Yesterday," Grassley said. "That’s a little facetious, but that’s kind of the way I see it.”

As of Thursday, the USDA’s local Farm Service Agency offices are back open, though workers aren’t being paid. They’ll start processing farm loans and tariffs payments again. But valuable USDA market reports that farmers use when planning spring production will still be delayed.

The shutdown is also delaying Congress' deliberations over the president's new NAFTA agreement between Mexico and Canada. The government closures have delayed necessary reviews of the deal by federal agencies. Without those reports, Congress can't debate whether to implement the plan, known as the USMCA.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter