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 CardinCongress passes bill to begin scenic byways renaissance GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir MORE (D-Md.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE [R-Ky.] and Senator Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 GrahamTrump fires back at Graham over Iran criticism Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran 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) ManchinKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Senate Democrats to hold the floor to protest inaction on gun violence 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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.