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Competing bills to end shutdown fail to clear the Senate

A bipartisan group of lawmakers float a deal that would reopen government for three weeks as talks over a border wall continue.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) steps out

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) steps out of the Senate chamber before a vote on ending the partial government shutdown at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. Photo Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted down two competing pieces of legislation to end the monthlong government shutdown on Thursday, prompting a bipartisan group of lawmakers to float a new deal that would temporarily reopen shuttered agencies for the next three weeks as negotiations over President Donald Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall demand continue.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House after his proposal to reopen the government in exchange for wall  failed in a 50-47 vote that was 10 yes votes short of the 60 needed for passage, said he would support the newly floated three-week deal if it provides “a large down payment” for the wall. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill urged the president against setting conditions on the nascent deal aimed at putting some 800,000 federal employees back to work. Government workers on Friday are set to miss their second consecutive paycheck since the shutdown started on Dec. 22.

“If they come to a reasonable agreement, I would support it,” Trump told reporters at the White House, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer met behind closed doors looking to hash out a compromise.

Asked if he would support a temporary measure that did not include wall funding, Trump said: “We have to have the wall.”

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters: "The president just said that if they come to a reasonable agreement, he will support it. I hope it doesn't mean some big down payment for the wall.”

Support for Trump’s border wall request to end the shutdown showed signs of waning among Republican senators. Six GOP senators crossed party lines to vote for a measure endorsed by Democrats that called for reopening the government for two weeks devoid of any wall funding as border security negotiations continue. That measure, by a 52-44 vote,  also failed to reach the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass.

Only one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, crossed party lines to vote for the Trump-GOP measure.

Before the vote, Manchin said he would vote for both measures, saying “even though they will probably fail, these votes are a start to finding a way to reopen” the federal government.

Other lawmakers speaking from the Senate floor expressed similar optimism at devising a deal to end the 34-day-old shutdown. Several spoke about the plight of government workers struggling to pay for rent, food and medicine as they remain without pay.

“I would urge all of our colleagues — now that we’ve had these two failed votes, we know we’re right where we started when we got here today — that we work together to try to bridge our differences to build consensus and end this shutdown,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Earlier, McConnell (R-Ky.) encouraged lawmakers to stick to backing one bill alone — the GOP bill — saying the Democrats’ bill, which mirrors bipartisan legislation that passed the Senate last month before being rejected by Trump, would face the threat of a veto from the president.

“My hope is that we will pass the proposal that could be signed into law and solve the problem, and that we will not pass the alternative which does not have a chance of becoming law and solving the problem,” McConnell said.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking from the Senate floor, pushed back on Trump’s claims that the stalemate over border wall funding belied a national security crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.

“President Trump keeps saying ‘we need the wall for security’ — most people disagree with that. But even if you didn’t, it’s going to not be built for years. Our security is suffering today because of the Trump shutdown,” Schumer said, citing the FBI agents, Border Patrol officers and TSA agents who have been working without pay for the past 34 days.

With AP


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