The Senate blocked two pieces of dueling legislation Thursday that could have brought the five-week government shutdown to an end and put 800,000 federal employees back to work, prompting Washington to look for other ways out of the impasse.
The first Senate vote, on a proposal supported by President Donald Trump, failed. A Democrat-backed bill met the same fate.
The legislation marked the Senate’s first attempts at ending the partial government shutdown since the impasse began more than a month ago.
But, come Friday, the only outcome government workers are likely to see is a second missed paycheck. The White House, meanwhile, is reportedly making renewed preparations to declare a national emergency to fund Trump’s demands for a border wall.
Here’s what you need to know.
According to a report from CNN, the White House is preparing a draft to declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border and has found more than $7 billion in potential funding for the president’s border wall.
While Trump’s advisers reportedly remain divided on the proclamation, the move would bypass Congress in allowing the president to to secure funds and resources for the wall.
If a national emergency is declared, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be deployed to the border to begin construction on the barrier, according to CNN.
Meeting with reporters after the Senate blocked both proposed measures to end the shutdown, Trump told the press that he would consider a “prorated down payment” on a border security wall as part of a three-week continuing resolution to re-open the federal government.
Details were not immediately clear on how the payment would be prorated, and Pelosi dismissed the idea, telling reporters at the Capital that a down payment on the wall is “not a reasonable agreement."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) met to discuss a potential resolution.
During the impromptu press conference following the Senate’s votes, Trump also suggested that furloughed federal workers were able to secure groceries for free.
“Local people know who they are, when they go for groceries and everything," the president said. "They will work along. I know banks are working along ... They know the people. They’ve been dealing with them for years. And they work along.”
Failing to gather the 60 votes needed to pass, the Senate first voted 50-47 Thursday on a bill backed by Trump, which would allot $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the United States' southern border and increase spending for the detention and removal of immigrants. It would also have provided three years in protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Also known as “Dreamers,” their statuses have been compromised after the president sought to end the program that protects them.
The measure would also have added $12.7 billion in disaster aid and extend the Violence Against Women Act, which expired last year after government funding for the program ran out.
McConnell called it the “only proposal currently before us that can be signed by the president and immediately re-open the government.”
Although six Republicans crossed the aisle to cast their votes Thursday for a subsequent Democrat-backed bill to reopen the government, the measure also fell short of the needed 60 votes, with a 52-44 tally.
The bill would have extend funding for currently shuttered government agencies through Feb. 8. It did not include additional funds for border security.
“People are saying, isn’t there a way out of this mess? Isn’t there a way to relieve the burden on the 800,000 federal workers not getting paid? Isn’t there a way to get government services open first and then debate what we should do for border security?” Schumer told reporters. “Well, now there’s a way.”
Pennsylvania’s senators split on the measures, with Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, voting for the Trump-backed bill, and Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, supporting the Democratic proposal.
Although pressure is rising on both parties to reopen the government, both proposed bills were widely deemed nonstarters for opposing sides of the aisle and had been expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed.
Although the attempts at ending the shutdown failed in the Senate, they may pave the way to opening negotiations, some political observers say.
Before the Senate voted, the day was filled with partisan back-and-forth about the lingering stalemate.
Experiencing hardship from more than a month without pay, federal employees are turning to food banks and free help to get by. But, in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he didn’t understand why furloughed workers don’t just take out loans.
Conceding that workers “might have to pay little bit of interest," Ross, a multi-millionaire by Forbes' estimate, said that "the idea that its paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea.”
When asked about Ross' comments at a later press conference, Trump said he understood what the secretary was saying, but “perhaps he should have said it differently.”
Loans and financial help with utilities are available to unpaid federal workers in the Philadelphia area, but many are still scrambling to make ends meet.
Also before the Senate’s vote Thursday, Schumer blocked a request from Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.) to pay just the Coast Guard, instead asking for a modified proposal to reopen all shuttered parts of the government.
Kennedy denied Schumer’s ask, saying Trump would veto the measure.
On Wednesday, the House passed legislation that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.
Rep. James E. Clyburn (D., S.C.) told reporters that Democrats could support up to $5.7 billion in border security measures, including refitted ports of entry and drones — but no border wall.
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