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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) ManchinMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Biden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision House Democrats to keep minimum wage hike in COVID-19 relief bill for Friday vote MORE (W.Va.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate confirms Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador The Memo: Biden bets big on immigration Biden pushes expanded pathways to citizenship as immigration bill lands in Congress MORE (D-N.J.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) voted to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee 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 CardinLiberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Senate strikes deal, bypassing calling impeachment witnesses Senators, impeachment teams scramble to cut deal on witnesses MORE (Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenMenendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill LIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG Plaskett quips male lawmakers 'would not have their wives in one attempt talking to her' during impeachment trial MORE (Md.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democrats in standoff over minimum wage Democrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSchiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow CIA formed task force to address suspected microwave attacks Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers 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