Senate

Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight

Senate and House leaders said Tuesday they will cancel the Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess unless there is a sudden resolution to the 25-day partial government shutdown, which appears unlikely given a breakdown in high-level talks. 

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), one of the principal negotiators, told reporters Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken to President Trump in nearly a week, underlining the standstill in negotiations.    

{mosads}“The last I spoke with him was when he walked out, threw a temper tantrum and walked out, so we haven’t heard from him since then,” Schumer told reporters after meeting with the Democratic caucus. 

A group of centrist House Democrats on Tuesday rejected a White House invitation to attend talks with Republicans and Trump, seeing it as an effort to divide the party. 

A Democratic congressional aide said the meeting appeared to be pulled together “haphazardly at the last minute,” with invitations to members received from the White House beginning in the late afternoon on Monday and continuing until late at night.

“The congressman is declining the invitation,” said Andrew Scibetta, a spokesman for Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.). “Congressman Correa welcomes the opportunity to talk with the president about border security, as soon as the government is reopened.”

The White House and Republicans who did attend the meeting criticized the Democrats for skipping it.

“The sheer fact that no Democrats [were] here to even talk with us shows the lack of willingness to compromise,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), one of the Republicans who went to the White House. 

Democrats feel confident they have leverage on Trump, who has seen his poll numbers steadily erode as the shutdown drags on. 

“Every day he’s losing. The Gallup poll today had him at a near record low of 37 percent popularity. Even some of his base is losing faith,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. “President Trump, you’re not going to win this fight with the American people. Every day it drags on, you are less popular.” 

A Quinnipiac University poll published Monday showed that 56 percent of respondents blame Trump and Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, while only 36 percent blame Democrats. 

Convinced that Trump is taking the brunt of the political fallout, Democrats feel little incentive to cede any ground in the standoff over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall. 

So far, most Republican lawmakers are sticking with Trump, persuading themselves the shutdown isn’t becoming a political disaster for their party. But others acknowledge the standoff is taking a toll on Trump’s political standing and want to see an end to the impasse. 

“Nobody is winning. Mr. President, hear me, nobody is winning. We’re not winning, you’re not winning, Democrats aren’t winning,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). 

Asked if the shutdown is hurting Trump’s approval rating, Murkowski said “absolutely.”

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Trump has largely failed to persuade independent voters that building a border wall is worth a monthlong partial government shutdown. 

“The real battlefield is for those independent voters, and I don’t think he’s probably won them over yet,” Thune said. 

But he added that Trump “certainly among Republican voters, from what I’ve seen, he seems to be moving the needle there.” 

For the second time in two weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked a request by Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) to take up a House package to fund shuttered departments and agencies. 

McConnell has said he will not allow a vote on a funding measure unless there is a deal between Trump and Democrats. He also said the Senate would not be voting to override a Trump veto on funding legislation. 

There are at least two groups of senators working on proposals that could later serve as the basis of a compromise. 

One group, led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), includes a mix of Republicans and Democrats, including Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

A separate group, made up entirely of Republican moderates, is also meeting to discuss options, according to Murkowski. 

“Let’s just agree we’ve got to stop it,” she said. 

“I’ve got to do something,” she added. “I just can’t sit and wait and hope that one day the president will wake up someday and say, ‘Oops, I changed my mind on that.’ That’s not going to happen.”

She said a broader immigration deal is “clearly in the mix,” as is a broader agreement on federal spending levels. 

Some Republicans are floating the idea of combining negotiations over the border wall with talks over strict spending caps. Those new spending ceilings are set to be triggered in 2020. They argue Democrats might be willing to compromise if funding levels for social-service programs are also at stake. 

“It’s worth positive discussions. It might be a good idea,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said. “I think we’ll have to discuss all of it, that included.” 

While most Republican lawmakers are sticking with Trump for now, nerves are fraying.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), usually one of the most gentlemanly members of the Senate, gave an angry speech on the floor Tuesday, venting his frustration with the lack of progress. 

“The president is not moving. The Democrats aren’t moving. The majority leader is not moving. And we’re not doing much. And that doesn’t solve anything,” he fumed. 

“The fact of the matter is we’re not doing a damned thing while the American people are suffering,” he said. 

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, one of the nation’s busiest, has been hit especially hard by the expiration of government funding for the Transportation Security Administration. Travelers there are waiting up to 88 minutes to make it through security screening lines — and up to 55 minutes in TSA PreCheck lines. 

“We’ve got a Super Bowl coming to Atlanta, Ga., in about three weeks, the biggest tourism event in the world this year. What if the largest airport in the world goes on strike?” Isakson said. 

A Senate Republican aide predicted that more Republican moderates would defect from Trump’s side. 

“The polling is horrible,” the aide said, warning that the political environment could turn drastically worse for Republicans if an accident or worse happens at an airport because of low staffing levels. 

Jordan Fabian, Jordain Carney and Scott Wong contributed.

Tags Appropriations Ben Cardin Border wall Budget Charles Schumer Chris Van Hollen Christopher Coons Cory Gardner Donald Trump Joe Manchin John Thune Johnny Isakson Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Lou Correa Mark Warner Mitch McConnell Richard Shelby Rob Portman Rodney Davis Shutdown Thom Tillis

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