Senators pitch three-week stopgap bill to resolve shutdown fight

A group of moderate senators is pitching a three-week stopgap bill as an off-ramp to the partial government shutdown in exchange for Congress agreeing to work on a border security plan during that period.

The proposal spearheaded by Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinHouse votes to boost retirement savings On The Money: GOP angst grows over Trump's trade war | Trump promises help for 'Patriot Farmers' | Markets rebound | CBO founding director Alice Rivlin dies | Senate to vote on disaster aid bill next week Senators offer bipartisan retirement savings bill MORE (D-Md.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Overnight Energy: Park Service plans to pay full-time staff through entrance fees | Oil companies join blitz for carbon tax | Interior chief takes heat for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change MORE (R-Alaska) comes after the Senate on Thursday rejected both a White House-backed plan to provide $5.7 billion for a border wall and a separate plan that would have temporarily reopened the government through Feb. 8.

"We need to pass a short-term, three-week clean CR [continuing resolution] so that we can have time to consider the president's request and work together on a bipartisan border package," Cardin said.

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Murkowski added that the two Senate votes on Thursday were "messaging votes," rather than proposals designed to get the 60 votes needed to pass. She added that while senators need to work together to resolve the border fight, "you can't do it when the government is shut down."

"Allow us then to go through whether it's the appropriations process, the Judiciary Committee process, but allow us to do the business of the United States Senate, to do the business of legislating. But let's also allow the business of the government to proceed by opening up the government right now," Murkowski added.

Trump has previously indicated he is not interested in agreeing to temporarily reopen the federal government and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared to immediately pour cold water on the proposal Thursday, even as senators were still discussing it on the floor.

"Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE [R-Ky.] and Senator Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' MORE [D-N.Y.] are meeting now to see whether or not they can work out of the deadlock. As was made clear to Senator Lindsay Graham, the 3 week CR would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall," she said.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamNew Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes Graham: 'US must be willing to intervene in Venezuela' Trump Jr. slams Republican committee chairman: 'Too weak to stand up to the Democrats' MORE (R-S.C.) pitched the three-week plan to Trump during a phone call on Thursday. He said in a statement that the CR must include "a down payment on wall/barrier funding and priorities of Democrats for disaster relief, showing good faith from both sides."

Graham had previously said he spoke with the president about the idea of a three-week continuing resolution on Thursday shortly before the marathon of floor speeches about the idea.

"He gave me some indications of things he would want for a three-week CR that would be good-faith down payment on moving forward that I thought were eminently reasonable," Graham said.

He also outlined areas where he thinks Trump and Democrats are going to have to compromise in order to get a deal, including broadening the president's offer on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders. 

"To my Democratic friends, money for a barrier is required to get this deal done. It will not be a concrete wall, and the money will be programmed to a DHS plan that all of you know about and have been briefed on and should approve," Graham said. 

But Democrats are unlikely to agree to attach funding on the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Trump's plan to give $5.7 billion for the wall in exchange for legal protections for some immigrants won over one Democrat: Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Labor head warns of 'frightening uptick' in black lung disease among miners MORE (D-W.Va.). 

Asked about Sanders's statement, Cardin responded that the best path forward was the one being laid out by the bipartisan group. 

"What we have put on the table is our reputation as legislators that given three weeks we'll come up with a successful conclusion on border security issues. That's putting the responsibility on the legislative branch of government," he said. 

Asked about Trump's remarks about accepting a "prorated down payment for the wall," Cardin seemed perplexed telling reporters "I have no idea what that means." 

The group of approximately 16 senators is hoping they have momentum after the Senate rejected the two plans and as the fallout from the partial shutdown expected to grow more severe on Friday, when impacted federal workers will miss their second paycheck.
 
Roughly a quarter of the federal government which has been closed since Dec. 22.
 
McConnell and Schumer met in the GOP leader's office Thursday afternoon, after Schumer said on the floor that he had been summoned. 
 
In a potential sign of progress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' MORE (D-N.Y.) met in the GOP leader's office on Thursday afternoon, after Schumer said on the floor that he had been summoned.

Senators pitching the three-week stopgap bill acknowledged that while they can offer ideas, McConnell and Schumer will ultimately be responsible for agreeing to a deal.

"What is important right now is … hopefully as we speak the majority leader and the Democratic leader are meeting," Murkowski said. "This is, I think, as important as anything else that has come out of the two votes today."

Cardin added that "we're working with Senator Schumer. …Ultimately the path forward as to how the process will work when we can open government needs to be negotiated between the two leaders. We recognize that."
 
 
McConnell, leaving the Capitol for the night, told reporters that "at least we're talking.”
Updated at 7:22 p.m.