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On second day of government shutdown, Congress still deadlocked but a bipartisan glimmer of hope

  • January 21, 2018


The White House’s public comment telephone line changed their phone message during the shutdown to blame the Democrats for not making a deal that would keep the government funded and running. Veuer’s Maria Mercedes Galuppo (@mariamgaluppo) has more.

WASHINGTON — Even as Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for causing the partial government shutdown now in its second day, there appeared to be a glimmer of hope late Sunday afternoon: A bipartisan group of more than 20 centrist lawmakers left a meeting with what appeared to be an agreement – at least on a broad outline of ideas – to keep the government open another few weeks.

“We’re going to offer to each of the two leaders some options,” South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds said, “but I think we’re making some good progress.” 

Rounds, as he was leaving the meeting that convened in the office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the group all coalesced around certain principles – but did not say exactly what they were, or what lawmakers would present to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who was also in the meeting, said the senators discussed potential demands Democrats should make as a concession to re-open the government.

On the table, Coons said, was a broad agreement that after funding the government the Senate should “proceed to immigration.” The senators discussed whether it was better to demand a vote by a certain date – or to demand that debate start before a certain date. 

The Senate on Friday night blocked legislation that would keep the government funded for the next month. That bill would also have extended a children’s health insurance program and delayed some health care taxes. The legislation came up with a vote of 50-49 – about 10 votes short of passing. Most Democrats and a handful Republicans voted against the bill. 

More: Government shutdown: 7 key players to watch in spending impasse

More: To end government shutdown, Trump suggests Senate use ‘nuclear option’

Democrats opposed the bill because it did not include legal protections for DREAMers, the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and were covered under an Obama-era order. They also were unhappy that it left out other domestic spending priorities. 

In September, President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program but gave Congress six months to find a solution. While there have been a variety of proposals introduced in both the House and Senate — a few of them bipartisan — no votes have been scheduled.

“I think it’s important to recognize the sooner we can come to agreement to open up the agreement, to re-open the government the better it is for Republicans, the better it is for Democrats, the better it is for the country,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters Sunday. “We want to be able to provide support,” she added, for an agreement between party leaders. 

The apparent bipartisan energy from the meeting in Collins’s office did not seem to extend to congressional leaders — who were still on Sunday blaming each other for the spending impasse. 

McConnell and Schumer still had not spoken since the original short-term spending bill failed early Saturday morning, Schumer’s spokesman Matt House told USA TODAY Sunday afternoon.

Instead, they took to the Senate floor to rib each other.

McConnell urged Democrats to lift their objections to a short-term spending bill to keep the government open. At 1 a.m. Monday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8, but it is not clear whether it has enough support to pass. 

“This shutdown is only going to get a lot worse tomorrow. A lot worse,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “Today would be a good day to end it… This shutdown was a political miscalculation of gargantuan proportions, but it doesn’t need to go on any longer.” 

Some Republicans insisted that finding a fix for the DREAMers was not crucial at this time. The government shut down is “solely done by the Senate Democrats … they shut down the government over a completely unrelated issue,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on CBS. 

More: The government shutdown: What we know now

Democrats saw it differently. Schumer accused the Republican-controlled White House and Congress of preventing a compromise. 

“Under this unified control it was the Republicans’ job to govern, it was their job to lead. It was their job to reach out to us and come up with a compromise. They have failed,” Schumer fired back. 

White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said on NBC Sunday morning that the president had been engaging with GOP leadership but hadn’t talked to Schumer since the two met on Friday afternoon.

Schumer said on the Senate floor Sunday that, during the meeting with the president, he proposed authorizing funding for Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico in exchange for protections for DREAMers and a spending bill that included spending for other domestic priorities.

Schumer said that the offer was rejected.

“I essentially agreed to give the president something he said he wants in exchange for something we both want,” Schumer said. “This is the Trump shutdown. Only President Trump can end it. We Democrats are at the table, ready to negotiate. The president needs to pull up a chair and end this shutdown.”

The White House said they would not negotiate on immigration until the government re-opened.

“Sen. Schumer’s memory is hazy because his account of Friday’s meeting is false,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “And the President’s position is clear: we will not negotiate on the status of unlawful immigrants while Sen. Schumer and the Democrats hold the government for millions of Americans and our troops hostage.”

As legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to pass, and Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority, Trump on Sunday urged senators to change the chamber’s rules to a simple majority – and work instead on a long term spending bill. Senators from both parties on Sunday appeared to have little appetite to take up this suggestion. 

More: To end government shutdown, Trump suggests Senate use ‘nuclear option’

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who is the Republican whip, said on the Senate floor Sunday afternoon that there was bipartisan support for protections for DREAMers and the shutdown was hampering the chances of a compromise.

“It seems to me that our Democratic colleagues have … shot themselves in the foot, reloaded and shot themselves in the other foot and now they expect President Trump to somehow rescue them out of this box canyon,” Cornyn said. “They shut down the government and now they’re hurting the very people that they shutdown the government to help. Because there’s no negotiations going on on a solution that we’d all like to try to achieve.”

While each side is banking the other party will get blamed, polls ahead of the shutdown found that Americans would assign fault to Trump and the GOP. 

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