Democrats have been calling on McConnell to allow a vote on a short-term bill that would reopen the government without including funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, giving both sides time to continue negotiations while making sure 800,000 furloughed federal employees receive their latest paycheck. Such a bill, Democrats say, could pass with enough support in the Senate ― 67 votes ― to override a presidential veto.
“The issue here is the Senate really does need to do its job as a separate and co-equal branch of government,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Tuesday on the Senate floor, urging McConnell to allow the Senate to make use of its powers under the Constitution to try to end the partial government shutdown.
McConnell, however, has said that it would be pointless to vote on any spending bill that does not have the support of the president. He shot down the veto override suggestion on Tuesday, telling reporters at a weekly press conference that Trump is correct to push for additional border security funding.
“In a situation like this where the president in my view is in the right place trying to get the right outcome… of course not,” McConnell said when asked by an NBC News reporter if he would try to reopen the government with a veto override.
But if McConnell believed the situation on the border was so critical that it needed additional security measures like Trump’s wall, he could have pushed for that funding in December, when the Senate passed a short-term government funding bill easily by voice vote. The Kentucky Republican did not.
McConnell instead called on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to sit down again with Trump and come to an agreement on wall funding, essentially attempting to take himself out of negotiations amid the ongoing shutdown.
“Let me repeat again what I’ve said now for three weeks: The solution is a negotiation between the one person who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues,” McConnell said Tuesday.
The last time Trump huddled with congressional leaders at the White House, the president walked out of the meeting after Pelosi said she did not support his proposed border wall.
“He just got up and said we have nothing to discuss, and he walked out,” Schumer said last week. “He just walked out of the meeting.”
Democrats and Republicans remain dug in on their positions as the shutdown continues this week, with no significant talks occurring to reopen the government. Trump invited a group of House Democrats to the White House on Tuesday to discuss the matter, but each one of them declined the meeting.