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) ManchinSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation MORE (W.Va.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSaagar Enjeti says Corbyn's defeat in UK election represents 'dire warning' for Democrats Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (D-N.J.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) voted to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSherrod Brown backs new North American trade deal: 'This will be the first trade agreement I've ever voted for' McConnell: Bevin pardons 'completely inappropriate' House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal 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 CardinDemocrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism The Secure Act makes critical reforms to our retirement system — let's pass it this year Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death MORE (Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (Md.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat 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