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Senate blocks White House-backed bill to end shutdown

Senate Democrats blocked a White House–backed plan to end the 34-day partial shutdown, turning it down in a 50-47 vote on Thursday.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Schumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate MORE (D-W.Va.) joined with Republicans to advance the measure, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster.

In an unexpected development, GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWhite House downplays surprising February jobs gain, warns US far from recovery White House open to reforming war powers amid bipartisan push Garland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks MORE (Utah) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate to vote next week on Garland's AG nomination Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll MORE (Ark.) voted against Trump's plan. Lee is considered a fiscal hawk, and Cotton is one of the Senate’s most conservative members on immigration.

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The Senate is expected to hold a second vote Thursday on a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the quarter of the government currently closed until Feb. 8. That bill is also expected to fail, though a few Republicans have said they will support it.

The measure backed by most Republicans would have provided $5.7 billion for President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE’s proposed wall on the Mexican border and also would have let Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and some temporary protected status holders apply for a three-year extension of protected status. The measure also placed new restrictions on asylum seekers.

The vote is the first time the Senate has taken up Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for the wall since the partial shutdown started last month.

It’s a U-turn for Senate Republicans who have largely stayed on the sidelines of the fight after Trump rejected a Senate-passed CR late last year. But GOP senators have grown antsy as the funding fight has dragged on, and they’ll likely use the vote to attack Democrats, who have largely remained unified during the battle.

Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote MORE (R-Ky.) had said that a bill needed to have the backing of both Trump and Democrats to receive a floor vote, he touted the White House plan as the only one that could “make a law” and therefore deserves a vote.

“What will be on display in this chamber today: The American people will see plainly what senators want to make a law and clean up this mess and which senators are continuing to make political points and nothing else,” McConnell said. “Making law versus making points, that’s the choice.”

Republicans have argued that Trump’s proposal is a “compromise” because it includes some immigration measures, as well as sweeteners for Democrats like an extension of the Violence Against Women Act and more than $12 billion in disaster relief.

Trump tried to play up bipartisanship when he first detailed the proposal over the weekend, saying his administration had reached out to rank-and-file members in both parties and that his offer was a “common sense compromise both parties should embrace.”

Manchin, who is from a state where Trump remains popular, became the first Democrat to say, hours ahead of the Senate floor showdown, that he would vote for the GOP measure.

“I'm voting for both. I'm doing everything in my power to open up this government,” Manchin told WV Metro News.

But Democrats have shown little signs of caving in the entrenched funding fight. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans believe Trump is more to blame for the partial shutdown, which has forced roughly 800,000 federal workers to be furloughed or work without pay. A Fox News poll released Thursday found that 51 percent say Trump is more to blame, compared to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Federal workers will miss their second paycheck during the shutdown on Friday.

Democrats have demanded that Trump reopen the government before they negotiate on border security.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor MORE (D-N.Y.) blasted the White House-backed bill as “partisan” but argued that the CR could pass if Republicans were willing to break with Trump — something most of them have been unwilling to do during the funding fight.

“When one side — in this case, the president — throws a temper tantrum and uses the basic functioning of our government as leverage in a policy argument, our system of government breaks down. If every president decided to shut down the government when they didn’t get a policy from Congress, America would careen from crisis to crisis, an endless spiral of gridlock and dysfunction,” Schumer said.

Senators are hoping that if both bills fail it would force Trump and Democrats to restart talks, which derailed during a White House meeting earlier this month, though Thursday’s votes provided no clear path to a quick solution.

A group of moderate senators are continuing to talk behind closed doors and have floated asking for a temporary CR in exchange for agreeing to take up Trump's border request; they are expected to outline their framework on the Senate floor later Thursday. Some GOP senators, including members of leadership, have also floated potentially broadening negotiations, by including more issues viewed as important Trump and Democrats, as an exit path.  

“I actually think the president will have moved this process forward,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBiden gets involved to help break Senate logjam Top Republican: 'Outrageous' to extend National Guard deployment at Capitol Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, “by beginning the process of expanding it so that we can reach a conclusion.”