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 CardinOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council Dems face big questions on tax plans for 2020 MORE (D-Md.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiJuan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 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 McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE [R-Ky.] and Senator Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Why we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds 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 GrahamGraham: Dems want to abolish Electoral College because they 'want rural America to go away' Overwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line 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) ManchinManchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change 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 SchumerGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Why we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds 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.