WASHINGTON, D.C. — A fractured Senate Thursday rejected dueling Democratic and Republican plans to end the partial government shutdown that has ground on into its 34th day. As President Donald Trump and Congress hang in limbo over the longest-ever closure of federal agencies, many in the Kansas congressional delegation are backing the White House.
The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he’s demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he’d long promised Mexico would finance. The 51-47 vote for the measure fell nine shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.
Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to 800,000 beleaguered government workers who are a day from going unpaid for a second consecutive pay period.
“I’m standing beside President Trump on this,” said Republican First District Congressman Roger Marshall, although the House was not involved in the voting Thursday. “He has offered a common-sense, more than reasonable compromise to end the shutdown.”
Unfortunately Nancy Pelosi will not even come to the table to discuss, he said. She refuses to make any type of counter offer.
“I have empathy and concern for those federal workers not getting paid right now, but twice in the past week I joined Republicans voting in favor of paying these federal employees,” Marshall said. “As you can guess, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats worked hard to defeat the measure.”
“Today, I voted in favor of the president’s compromise plan to reopen the government while also securing our borders and providing protections for DACA recipients,” Senator Jerry Moran said. “The proposal, which incorporates provisions similar to legislation I introduced earlier this month with Senator Rob Portman, includes widely-supported solutions that both sides of the aisle agree on and that the president would sign into law.”
The alternative legislation Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put forth on the Senate floor Thursday would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from constructing any new physical barrier on the border and it would not garner the president’s signature to end the shutdown, Moran said.
“It is wrong that so many suffer because of political infighting and dysfunction in Washington,” Moran said. “Congress must pass a funding bill that the president will sign so we can return to a fully-functioning federal government for our federal workers, farmers and ranchers, and the numerous individuals and businesses who are harmed by this shutdown.”
Sen. Pat Roberts said he also voted Thursday to fully fund government and to improve border security while also providing further protections for DACA recipients.
“The president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have offered a compromise with priorities for both sides that will end the shutdown,” Roberts said. “I was glad to support it to move the immigration debate forward while at the same time better protecting our borders and reopening the government. We must negotiate in good faith before further damage is done to our economy and to the people unfairly caught in the partisan crosshairs.”
Senator Roberts also supported legislation to fund the government in late December.
The bill, called the “End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act,” was blocked from a final vote because it failed to garner 60 votes.
What transpired Thursday
In an embarrassment to Trump that could weaken his position whenever negotiations get serious, the Democratic proposal got one more vote than the GOP plan. There were six Republican defectors, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who’s clashed periodically with the president.
There were faint signs that lawmakers on both sides were looking for ways to resolve their vitriolic stalemate. But Thursday was mostly a day for both parties, in conflicting ways, to show sympathy for unpaid federal workers while yielding no ground in their fight over Trump’s demand to build a border wall with Mexico.
Flustered lawmakers said the results could be a reality check that would prod the start of talks. Throughout, the two sides have issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked negotiations from even starting: Trump has refused to reopen government until Congress gives him the wall money, and congressional Democrats have rejected bargaining until he reopens government.
Thursday’s votes could “teach us that the leaders are going to have to get together and figure out how to resolve this,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate GOP leader. He added, “One way or another we’ve got to get out of this. This is no win for anybody.”
Vice President Mike Pence attended a lunch with GOP senators before the vote and heard from lawmakers eager for the standoff to end, participants said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said their message to Pence was “Find a way forward.”
In consultation with their Senate counterparts, House Democrats were preparing a new border security package they planned to roll out Friday. Despite their pledge to not negotiate until agencies reopened, their forthcoming proposal was widely seen as a counteroffer to Trump. Pelosi expressed “some optimism that things could break loose pretty soon.”
The Democratic package was expected to include $5.7 billion, the same amount Trump wants for his wall, but use it instead for fencing, technology, personnel and other measures. In a proposal that the rejected Senate GOP plan mirrored, Trump on Saturday proposed to reopen government if he got his wall money. He also proposed to revamp immigration laws, including new restrictions on Central American minors seeking asylum in the U.S. and temporary protections for immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
In another sign of hope, Thursday’s vote on the Democratic plan represented movement by McConnell. For weeks, he’d refused to allow a Senate vote on anything Trump wouldn’t sign and has let Trump and Democrats try reaching an accord. McConnell has a history of helping resolve past partisan standoffs, and his agreement to allow Thursday’s vote was seen by some as a sign he would become more forcefully engaged.
In addition, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said that at a closed-door meeting among House Democrats Wednesday night, Pelosi expressed “some optimism that things could break loose pretty soon” but provided no specifics.
With the impacts of the shutdown becoming increasingly painful, however, lawmakers on both sides were trumpeting their willingness to compromise in the battle over border security and immigration issues, such as protection against deportation for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)