Senate blocks competing proposals to reopen government
The Senate on Thursday failed to advance two different proposals to reopen the government — a Republican-backed proposal that would have provided $5.7 billion for President Donald Trump’s promised border wall and a Democratic-backed proposal that would not have provided new wall funding.
Both measures fell short of the 60 votes they would have needed to move forward in the upper chamber. The final vote tally for the GOP backed proposal was 50-47. The tally for the Democratic proposal was 52-44. Both would have needed 60 votes to advance.
Six Republicans voted for the Democratic-backed proposal: Senators Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Lisa Murkowski, Johnny Isakson and Mitt Romney
A handful of senators broke ranks with their party in the vote for the GOP-backed proposal. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted yes on the Trump shutdown proposal, as he had said he would. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton voted no, as did Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican.
A group of House Democrats filed into the Senate chamber to watch the votes.
The outcome highlights the fact that there is still no clear consensus between Democrats and Republicans over how to end the longest shutdown in US history.
What happens now?
Several senators said ahead of the votes on Thursday that they are trying to find a way to get a deal that would look something like this: A short-term spending bill to reopen the government, combined with an agreement to draft a border security package.
The details are still being hashed out, but more than a dozen senators are trying to pressure Trump to agree to reopen the government temporarily and Pelosi to make more commitments on border security.
Roughly 15 senators will take to the floor this afternoon to make this pitch.
Sen. Rob Portman said that senators are looking for a “third way” to get the government open after the two votes fail Friday.
Asked if Trump needs to say he’d open the government in the short term, Portman said: “I think so, yeah. But he needs to have some commitment that they are going to get this resolved so it’s not just a short-term opening and where we’re right back where we are now.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said: “Hopefully we can find some third approach. We have about a dozen of us — maybe more, six and six, I can’t remember. A good many yesterday. Talking about a way to find a short-term CR acceptable to the President. I’m pretty confident if we ever got in a room without the shutdown hovering over us, that we could find a way to get this done.”
The White House may also invite the group of eight congressional leaders for a meeting with Trump as soon as Friday, an official said. That decision is being deliberated now at the White House.
Aides are unsure whether Pelosi would accept the invitation, but as CNN has reported, there is hope within the White House that the failure of two competing plans to reopen the government could lead to more negotiations. Talks about bringing Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer back to meet with Trump could signal another push from the White House to try for a deal, after the President’s attempt to float one unilaterally fizzled.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy earlier Thursday called on congressional leaders to meet again on Friday to work on a deal.
“I’m requesting that we all get in a room tomorrow and stay in that room until we solve the problem,” said McCarthy, a California Republican.
House Democrats have repeatedly passed legislation to reopen the government since taking over the majority in the lower chamber and continue to do so this week. But none of those proposals have included the money requested by the President to fund the wall, triggering White House veto threats and making the bills dead on arrival in the Senate.
Competing proposals to reopen government
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Schumer announced earlier in the week that they had reached an agreement to hold Thursday’s votes, which will be the first major movement in the Senate related to the shutdown since it started just days before Christmas.
The Republican measure is in line with what the President outlined last weekend when he asked for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants.
Democrats swiftly rejected that offer and have steadfastly opposed allocating the funds requested by the President for his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border.
The Democratic measure to reopen government would temporarily reopen government into early February.
Seven Democrats would have needed to crossover for the GOP bill to pass — Republicans hold 53 Senate seats. And 13 Republicans would have to crossover for the Democratic bill to pass, which is unlikely unless Trump were to reverse course and support the bill.
The decision to allow votes on measures that are not certain to receive the bipartisan support needed to pass Congress and be signed into law by the President marks a shift for McConnell, who had previously said repeatedly after the shutdown started that he would not take up legislation related to the funding impasse unless it was clear it would be able to pass Congress and be signed into law by the President.