POLITICS

Senate Votes Down Competing Measures To Reopen The Government

The monthlong stalemate will likely continue for at least another week.

WASHINGTON ― Two dueling proposals to reopen parts of the federal government failed to advance in the Senate on Thursday, signaling that the partial but costly government shutdown likely will continue for at least another week.

A bill put forth by Republicans including $5.7 billion for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the southwestern border, as well as temporary deportation relief for some immigrants and refugees, was blocked by a vote of 50 to 47. 

A Democratic bill that would have provided funding to reopen all parts of the government until Feb. 8 while congressional leaders and Trump focus on trying to reach an accord on border security issues also failed to pass, 52 to 44. Six Republicans bucked the president and voted for the measure: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah). 

Both measures fell short of the 60-vote threshold to advance.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the only Democrat who supported both proposals, said he did so because they represented “a start to finding a way to reopen” the government.

Roughly a quarter of the government has been shut down since Dec. 22, after Trump refused to sign any appropriations bill that didn’t include funding for the border wall. The consequences of the showdown have been mounting for 800,000 federal workers forced off the job, with many struggling to pay rent and other bills after missing paychecks.

A top Trump adviser warned this week that the economy may show no growth in the first quarter if the shutdown lasts much longer. 

Democrats say they oppose building the wall — which Trump as a candidate promised Mexico would pay for — because it would be an ineffective deterrent against unauthorized immigration. They also argue that giving in to the president now would simply legitimize the tactic of shutting down the government over policy disagreements in future budget fights.

Republicans, meanwhile, say additional barriers on the border are common-sense and needed. They also point out that congressional Democrats have agreed many times to fund construction of barriers on the border ― under Republican and Democratic administrations. 

It’s unclear what, if anything, Thursday’s votes accomplished.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his office Thursday afternoon to discuss a way forward that involves reopening the government for three weeks while both sides continue talking over border security. The 30-minute discussion between two leaders followed weeks of competing rhetoric on the Senate floor, leading some observers to believe that a breakthrough on the shutdown was near.

But the idea quickly ran into opposition from the White House, which insisted in a statement on Thursday that any short-term measure reopening the government include a “large down payment” on the wall.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, said they could not support the idea of giving Trump funds for his border wall unless he reopens the government first.

“What does he hold workers’ wages hostage for next? How many times will he try to hold wages hostage?” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told reporters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) haven’t spoken in weeks ― save for a sharp exchange of letters about postponing the president’s annual State of the Union address because of the shutdown.

Pelosi on Thursday similarly shot down the latest White House proposal to fund the wall.

“That is not a reasonable agreement between senators,” Pelosi said on the House floor. 

A group of House Democrats are working on a package that would meet Trump’s request of $5.7 billion but only for border security measures other than a wall, such as technology, more agents and measures intended to fortify ports of entry. It’s unclear if he would accept such a proposal, but the legislation would allow some anxious Democrats to say they are negotiating with the president in good faith and trying to reopen the government.

This story has been updated throughout.

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