Ten members of Congress with most to gain or lose from ending the shutdown

What happens when the government shuts down?

The world won't end if Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill. That's the truth about a government "shutdown": the government doesn't shut down.
Up Next
The world won't end if Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill. That's the truth about a government "shutdown": the government doesn't shut down.

Few Americans want a shuttered federal government — especially one shut down by congressional bickering.

Yet Monday’s votes to re-open the federal government after a three-day shutdown were particularly difficult for vulnerable lawmakers from both parties.

The government may be up and running again, but still unresolved is the thorny matter of how to deal with young immigrant children facing deportation to stay in the country. No one got any guarantees, and in the coming weeks and months, senators and House members with close races are likely to be defending their votes and positions over the last few days.

A look at 10 of those lawmakers and how their votes could be remembered back home:


Votes listed below are on the key vote for or against funding the government through Feb. 8.

Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

How she voted: No

What she has to gain: After initially saying she would vote for a spending deal to keep the government open, even if it didn’t include a fix for young immigrants, Feinstein voted against a December short term spending bill and against it again on Friday. Her third vote against the latest stopgap measure further reinforces a shift to the left, which could help her with the state’s vocal liberal base. Progressive Democrats will be a key factor in her reelection race against state Senate President Kevin de Leon, who has accused Feinstein of not being tough enough on the issue.

What she has to lose: Feinstein is a pragmatist by nature, someone willing to work with Republicans. Her move to the left on the DACA debate, however, effectively sidelined her from the Senate Democratic and Republican talks to end the shutdown and find a path forward on immigration.


Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

How he voted: Yes

What he has to gain: Nelson, considered among the Senate’s more moderate Democrats, voted for a short-term spending bill in December. He's up for re-election in 2018 in a state Trump won, and could face a challenge from well-funded Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Nelson would not be in an ideal situation if Senate Democrats took the blame for an extended shutdown, especially in a state with a considerable military population.

What he has to lose: Nelson voted against the spending bill last week, but changed course on Monday. Scott has already charged that Nelson’s vote to shut down the government “didn’t make any sense.” Immigration activists will be unhappy with his decision to vote yes without a guaranteed DACA fix, but Nelson doesn't have to worry about a credible primary challenge from the left and has historically done well with independents and older voters compared to other Democrats in Florida.


Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

How she voted: Yes

What she has to gain: McCaskill is widely considered the most vulnerable Senate Democrat seeking re-election and a prolonged government shutdown fought largely over immigration was going to be hard for her. She voted to keep the government running on Friday, but still found herself the target of Republican ads. Ending the shutdown after three days takes some of the sting out of Republicans charges that Democrats are obstructionists and gives McCaskill the opportunity to portray herself as a moderate in a state Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points.

What she has to lose: McCaskill could disappoint progressive activists and see a deflation in campaign fundraising — by not siding with other Democrats in the Senate to reject any government funding bill that doesn't include a deal for Dreamers, the young undocumented immigrants DACA protects.


Ted Cruz, R-Texas

How he voted: Yes

What he has to gain: Cruz was at the center of a shutdown in 2013. Five years later, he’s been quieter. He’s up for re-election in 2018, and faces a challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is keeping pace with Cruz’s fundraising. Since returning from his failed 2016 presidential bid, Cruz has spent his time in the Senate demonstrating that he can be a team player in GOP-controlled Washington. By staying out of the fray, he managed to avoid a serious primary threat.

What he has to lose: Hardline immigration groups backed Cruz in the GOP presidential primary, over then-candidate Trump. Cruz would like to keep that support if he runs for president again someday. But in steering clear of the DACA debate, he’s been absent on issues with big implications for his home state. Texas has the second highest number of DACA recipients who could face deportation if Congress doesn’t legalize the program. It also has a huge border with Mexico, where Trump wants to build a wall.



The House voted Monday to continue government funding through Feb. 8.

Ami Bera, D-Calif.

How he voted: Yes

What he has to gain: The Sacramento-area Democrat represents one of California’s most competitive districts. Democrats have a slight edge in voter registration in the district, but Bera needs to win over plenty of independents and maybe even some Republicans. By joining with a minority of Democrats who voted for the short-term spending bill that ends the shutdown, Bera is showcasing his independent streak. The move also blunts some of the GOP attacks the Democratic doctor faced for opposing legislation last week to keep the government open and extend the popular CHIP program, which provides coverage to more than 20,000 children in his district.

What he has to lose: Bera’s split with his party won’t endear him to liberal voters back home, particularly pro-immigration activists who believe Democrats caved by not winning a better deal to guarantee a SACA extension. The vote could embolden his primary challenger, Brad Westmoreland, a 30-year-old Bernie Sanders-aligned Democrat. Republicans are also likely to cite Bera for flip-flopping, after he opposed a similar short-term spending measure on Friday.


Jeff Denham, R-Calif.

How he voted: Yes.

What he has to gain: Ending the government shutdown is a relief for vulnerable Republican incumbents, who risked a backlash from voters fed up with dysfunction in GOP-controlled Washington. The latest stopgap spending bill also buys Congress more time to negotiate on DACA, an issue where Denham has taken a leading role.

What he has to lose: Immigration is a high-profile issue in Denham’s Central California district, which is roughly a quarter Hispanic and has a large agricultural industry that relies on undocumented workers. Congress’ failure to resolve the standoff on DACA will not go over well with many voters there. A DACA deal, moreover, will face much tougher odds in in the House than in the Senate. If Denham’s GOP colleagues in the House end up killing an immigration deal next month, he’ll have a hard time distancing himself from that decision.


Will Hurd, R-Texas

How he voted: Yes

What he has to lose:Hurd’s San Antonio Congressional seat is a perennial target for both parties, and DACA and the border security both have huge implications. He represents 820 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, where Trump wants to build a politically unpopular wall. His district is also nearly 70 percent Hispanic voters. Hurd is likely to hear from constituents any time he goes home without Congress passing a solution for DACA recipients.

What he has to gain: Hurd has seized the moment to brandish his bipartisan credentials, rallying colleagues from both parties for a DACA and border security solution he authored. That plan, while unlikely to go anywhere in the House, allows Hurd to say he did something to stop Washington brinkmanship.


Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.

How he voted: Yes.

What he has to gain: Pittenger faces a potentially tough Republican primary rematch with Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who he barely defeated in the 2016 North Carolina GOP primary. So his vote to keep the government operating and to re-open it bolsters Pittenger's claim that he's a firm Trump supporter. Trump said he doesn't want a government shutdown and said Monday he was pleased that congressional Democrats “have come to their senses” and backed off a government shutdown.

What he has to lose: Very little. Harris and others won't be able to attack Pittenger's conservative credentials if Congress keeps the government running by passing a funding measure with enough votes from conservative lawmakers.


Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.

How he voted: Yes.

What he has to gain: The support of his party. Curbelo is running in the most Democratic-leaning district in the country represented by a Republican running for re-election in 2018. He’s tried to broker immigration compromises with members of both parties. He voted against the spending bill Friday, the only Republican running for re-election in 2018 who voted no because it lacked an immigration fix. And the moderate Senate Democrats who voted for the spending measure on Monday give Curbelo added cover.

What he has to lose: While Curbelo is a well-funded incumbent who enjoys the support of some Democrats in his district, he's also trying to protect himself against a potential Democratic wave in 2018. His vote to side with Republicans is likely to be used by Democrats. But his spokeswoman said Monday that “if Feb. 8 comes around and that commitment (on a DACA fix) has not been upheld, the Congressman is prepared to reconsider his support."


Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas

How he voted: Yes.

What he has to gain: Both political parties tried to blame each other for flirting with a government shutdown, but it's incumbents who are likely to get blamed back home, regardless of whether they're Republicans or Democrats. As an incumbent, Yoder would rather keep the government open. He also has little to gain by bucking his own party leadership as he heads into a tough re-election year.

What he has to lose: Not much. Yoder is running for re-election this year in a suburban Kansas City district where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton narrowly defeated Donald Trump in 2016. Democrats have targeted his seat as one they hope to flip from red to blue.

William Douglas, Lesley Clark, Brian Murphy, Andrea Drusch, Lindsay Wise, Alex Daugherty and Emily Cadei contributed to this story.

White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short spoke to reporters on January 19, 2018 as the Senate debated a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown.