Senate Rejects Trump, Democratic Proposals to End Shutdown

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted down two proposals — one offered by President Donald Trump and the other by Democrats — to end the shutdown on Senate on Thursday.

It’s now likely that the impasse, which has led to 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay, will extend at least through the weekend. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) invited Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to meet shortly after the votes failed.

The vote on Trump’s proposal was 50-47, but it failed because it needed to clear a 60-vote threshold.
The breakdown for the Democrats’ proposal was 52-44, also not enough to pass.
The failure to pass either proposal was not a surprise, but there still were some moments of theater at the Capitol, as lawmakers tried to emphasize the impact of the shutdown on government workers and their families.

Just before the vote was taken, a group of House Democrats, including Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), trekked to the Senate floor to watch from seats along the side of the chamber.

“We can do much better than to have hundreds of thousands of people not getting paid, working hard,” Lewis told Variety afterward. “I saw a story this morning, a mother holding a little child saying, ‘I don’t want to be homeless again.'”

Asked whether he saw any hopeful signs of a resolution, he said, “There are people talking, people meeting. We are hopeful. Prayerful.”

It’s unclear what path there is to ending the 34-day shutdown, the longest ever. Trump has demanded that the funding bills include money for a border wall, something that Democrats reject.

After the vote, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump would only support a three-week proposal to reopen the government if there is “a large down payment on the wall.” Trump later told reporters that “if [McConnell and Schumer] come to a reasonable agreement, I would support it, yes.”

Trump’s latest proposal, which he outlined in a speech on Saturday, would have included $5.7 billion to build a wall along vast parts of the southern border. It also included funding for additional border agents, and thousands more immigration and customs officials.

The proposal also would have extended for three years protections for “dreamers,” or those who were minors when their undocumented parents brought them to the United States. His proposal, however, would  have changed asylum laws in ways that immigration advocates say will limit the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country each year.

The Democrats’ plan did not offer any more money for border security, but their proposal was a short-term funding measure to reopen the government and provide funding through Feb. 8. It was meant to provide for a period where immigration negotiations could continue. It also provided for $14 billion in emergency spending for disaster relief.

Before the vote, Schumer said the Democrats’ proposal “allows us to reopen the government and then — then, after government is open — settle our differences over border security. I know it’s not partisan because every single Republican supported the same basic idea just one month ago when we voted on it.”

On the floor, there was some camaraderie among lawmakers in both parties. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) walked over to the visiting House Democrats and greeted Waters. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) chatted with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama).

But there also were moments of bitterness. Just before the vote, Sen. Michael Bennet gave a speech on the floor in which he tore into Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), accusing him of being hypocritical and of shedding “crocodile tears” in his urgent calls to reopen government. He noted that Cruz was instrumental in shutting down the government in 2013, and “my state was flooded. It was underwater. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined. Forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down.”

Cruz took the floor again and accused Bennet of bellowing and yelling at him on the Senate floor. He also said that Democrats were being disingenuous because many of them previously supported the idea of a border wall. Cruz ended up voting for Trump’s proposal and against the Democratic plan.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) was the sole Democrat to vote for Trump’s proposal. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) voted against it.

The Democratic proposal garnered votes from Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Manchin said that he was not sure what the White House meant by a down payment, but said, “I have no trouble security our borders. None at all. But there has to be some compassion. There is more to it than that.”

He said that he had not heard from Trump before the vote. But he called the situation a “political meltdown,” that never should have happened, and rejected the idea that Democrats were winning the argument because polls show Trump is getting more of the blame.

“No one is winning. When you are both losing, but one is losing more than the other, you still lost. I don’t know how else to put it,” he said.