WASHINGTON ― A last-ditch effort in Congress aiming to reopen the federal government with a broader deal on immigration fell apart on Thursday, virtually guaranteeing the partial shutdown will continue into its fourth week.
A handful of Republicans met in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office Thursday afternoon to discuss a plan that would have funded construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in exchange for legislative protections for Dreamers ― young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children ― as well as protections for immigrants from countries such as El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
The proposal mirrored a measure the Senate rejected last year after opposition from the White House and senior adviser Stephen Miller.
But the deal considered Thursday never really stood a chance. It lacked support from both Republicans and Democrats ― the latter of whom were not included in the day’s discussions. It also didn’t have the backing of President Donald Trump, who shot down the proposal shortly after it was pitched to him by the Senate GOP on Thursday, according to Politico.
“I have never been more depressed about moving forward than I am right now. I just don’t see a pathway forward,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and one of the main proponents of the idea, told reporters afterward.
The South Carolina Republican later tweeted that Congress faced a “complete stalemate” over reopening the government, pinning the blame partly on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her fellow Democrats’ refusal to give an inch on funding a wall Trump initially promised Mexico would pay for.
It’s unclear where talks go from here ― if any occur at all. Trump on Thursday toured the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas to draw attention to the need for more border security. He also canceled a trip to the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for later this month, citing Democrats’ “intransigence” over the wall.
Trump so far has refrained from building a wall via a national emergency declaration, which would free up unidentified Pentagon funds to start its construction. While he maintains that he has the “absolute right” to do so, both Republicans and Democrats believe the move would be challenged in court.
“If this doesn’t work out, I probably will do it, maybe definitely,” Trump told reporters on Thursday before leaving for the border.
Some lawmakers believe a presidential emergency declaration could be one way out of the showdown over border wall funding. By making the declaration, the theory goes, Trump could save face with his base by claiming he has begun building the wall and later blame the courts if they block it.
I would just say three words to my friend the majority leader: Open the government. It’s in your hands. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
“It might break an impasse. And it needs to be broken one way or the other. I’d rather it be broken in negotiations,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters about the idea on Thursday.
Graham tweeted later on Thursday that he supports a presidential emergency declaration to build the wall. “I hope it works,” he added.
The consequences of the partial government shutdown are mounting ― for national parks, airports, food inspections, emergency preparations and a host of other services. Additionally, some 800,000 federal workers will start missing paychecks this week.
Senate Democrats on Thursday attempted to call up for a vote several bills that would reopen the government, but each time Republicans objected.
Democrats are also reportedly threatening to block the Senate from adjourning this week, a move aimed to heighten pressure on the Senate majority leader and further highlight the standoff over the shutdown.
“I would just say three words to my friend the majority leader: Open the government. It’s in your hands,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on the floor.