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) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (W.Va.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Ending the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean MORE (D-N.J.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) voted to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale 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. 

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 CardinProposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars House votes to boost retirement savings MORE (Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (Md.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTexas raises age to purchase tobacco to 21 Texas raises age to purchase tobacco to 21 Democrats push to make national security a 2020 wedge issue MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' 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