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Democrats block foreign policy bill over shutdown fight

Senate Democrats blocked a bipartisan foreign policy bill on Tuesday as they deploy hardball tactics to try to break the shutdown stalemate.

Senators voted 56-44 to get the legislation over a first procedural hurdle, where it needed 60 votes.

Democratic Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (W.Va.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination MORE (D-N.J.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) voted to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' MORE (R-Ky.) voted against the legislation, a procedural move that will allow him to bring the bill back up. 

The legislation, which includes sanctions against the Syrian government and bolsters U.S. support for Israel and Jordan, was expected to strike a bipartisan note amid a deeply partisan shutdown fight when Republicans scheduled it last week. 

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But a growing number of Democrats signaled they would vote against advancing the bill, arguing the chamber should be focused on getting an agreement to end the partial shutdown, which is currently on its 18th day. 

Democratic Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (Md.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineRick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Grassley tests positive for coronavirus Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software MORE (Va.), whose two states have large populations of federal employees, sent their colleagues a letter urging them to vote against taking up the foreign policy bill because of the shutdown fight. 

“We write to urge you to join us in voting against the motion to proceed on Tuesday evening because the Senate should vote on the House-passed appropriations bills as its first order of business,” they wrote.
 
Senate Democrats are in the minority, but if they are able to unite 41 of their 47 members behind the strategy they can grind the Senate to a standstill in an effort to ratchet up pressure on McConnell, who has refused to take up any government funding bill not supported by the president. 
 
The escalation of shutdown tactics comes as recent talks appeared to go nowhere. In a sign of digging in, Trump is giving a prime-time address before traveling to the border Thursday, which would be the 20th day of the shutdown.
 
Trump has held firm in his demand for more than $5 billion for the wall. He'll also have lunch with Senate Republicans on Wednesday before congressional leadership goes to the White House for talks.
 
The Democratic-led House, meanwhile, is expected to begin passing individual appropriations bills this week, a move aimed at pressuring McConnell and vulnerable GOP incumbents up for reelection in 2020.
 
McConnell ripped Democrats earlier Tuesday over their decision to block the foreign policy bill, arguing they were throwing a "tantrum."
 
“Now they’re threatening to shut the Senate down, too. ... They’re threatening to shut down efforts to protect our allies and strengthen our relationship with Israel, something they all recently claim to support,” McConnell said from the Senate floor