Shutdown continues: Senate blocks bills to fund government amid fight over Trump border wall
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The Senate blocked dueling bills to fund the government on Thursday, leaving no clear path to ending the longest government shutdown ever.
Both a Republican-backed proposal and a measure supported by Democrats did not get the 60 votes needed to pass. The Democratic plan to reopen the government without funding for President Donald Trump‘s border wall — which Trump has explicitly threatened to veto — earned more votes in the GOP-held chamber.
The failure to find a resolution comes as 800,000 federal workers already stretched for cash start to miss a second paycheck on Friday and some government services suffer. Neither the president nor Democratic leaders have shown any willingness to back down even in the 34th day of the partial shutdown. Some bipartisan senators mounted calls for a bill to fund the government for three weeks while they find a larger immigration agreement.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a three-week continuing resolution “would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall.” She did not mention a total. Trump later said he would support a Senate deal if it is a “reasonable agreement.”
A GOP-backed measure to fund Trump’s border wall and offer limited legal protections for some immigrants failed in a 50-47 vote. Three senators — Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republicans Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Lee of Utah — broke with their parties.
A plan supported by Democrats fared better, but still fell short in a 52-44 vote. Six Republican senators supported it: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate have urged Trump to temporarily reopen the government while the White House and Congress negotiate a broader immigration deal. Trump has insisted on securing financing for the wall before he agrees to fund the government.
After the votes failed, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked him to meet in the Republican’s office. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he spoke to Trump and told him senators were discussing a three-week continuing resolution to fund the government. Graham believes “we could find a way forward to produce a bill that he would sign that would be good for everybody in the country.”
He called Trump’s requests “imminently reasonable” and said McConnell and Schumer would be discussing them. A group of bipartisan senators including Murkowski, Collins, Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Mark Warner of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, also called to temporarily reopen nine departments while the border security debate proceeds.
“It’s so important that we’re coming together now to offer some glimmer of hope,” Murkowski said.
McConnell has repeatedly said he will not back a deal Trump does not support — even though the Senate voted unanimously before the shutdown started to keep the government running without funding for the barrier.
The Democratic-held House has repeatedly voted to fund the closed quarter of the government, or individual departments, without putting money toward the wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged McConnell to pass the measures.
“Let’s have that discussion [about border security] after we open up government,” she told reporters Thursday.
The Senate votes Thursday come as the financial pain felt by 800,000 federal employees is about to sharpen. On Friday, those workers will start losing their second paychecks since the partial closure started on Dec. 22.
Thousands of government employees have scrambled to pay for meals and cover their bills. The shutdown has affected various services from airports to FBI investigations and food safety inspections. As hundreds of thousands of workers face furloughs or work without pay, the shutdown is expected to reduce gross domestic product growth for the first quarter.
Surveys indicate most Americans see the closure as a “crisis” or at least a “problem.” They largely put blame for the shutdown on Trump’s shoulders. As Americans seek an end to the impasse, more of them believe the president should yield rather than think congressional Democrats should, according to a CBS News poll.
The stalemate more broadly represents gridlock in Washington. On Wednesday, Pelosi said she would stop Trump from giving his State of the Union address in the House chamber until the shutdown ends. The president gave in, saying late Wednesday that he will deliver the speech when the closure is over rather than find a different venue.
The Republican plan that failed would have put $5.7 billion toward building the president’s proposed wall. In an attempt to appease Democrats, Trump offered a three-year extension of legal protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and migrants fleeing crises in certain countries. It would also have put more than $12 billion toward disaster relief, among other provisions.
Democrats eviscerated it, as the limited concessions for “Dreamers” did not go as far as previous proposals offering permanent residency or even a path to citizenship. Schumer on Wednesday called the plan “one-sided, harshly partisan and made in bad faith.”
McConnell earlier Thursday described the Democratic-backed proposal as one “that does not have a chance of becoming law and solving the problem,” according to The Washington Post. He did not comment to reporters about what the next steps would be if the bills failed.
It is unclear what steps lawmakers and Trump will take next. Earlier Thursday, Pelosi she would “meet with [Trump] any time he wants to meet” as the shutdown continues.
She also denied reports of a brewing Democratic counteroffer to Trump that would include $5.7 billion for technology and other measures for border security, but not a new barrier. Democrats have insisted that the U.S. can secure its borders without a wall as the president describes it.
Trump shot down that notion Thursday. He wrote in a tweet: “Very simply, without a Wall it doesn’t work.”
He added: “We will not cave!”