Senate blocks proposal to reopen government and fund Trump’s border wall


The Senate is set to hold a pair of test votes on competing proposals to reopen the government on Thursday — and both are expected to fail with no clear consensus between Democrats and Republicans over how to end the longest shutdown in US history.

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(CNN) — The Senate on Thursday failed to advance a Republican-backed proposal to end the government shutdown and provide $5.7 billion for President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.

The measure fell short of the 60 votes it would have needed to move forward in the upper chamber.

A handful of senators broke ranks with their party in the vote. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted yes on the Trump shutdown proposal, as he had said he would. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton voted no, as did Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican.

Next up, the Senate is voting on a Democratic-backed measure to reopen government without border wall funding.

That measure is also expected to fail with no clear consensus between Democrats and Republicans over how to end the longest shutdown in US history.

A group of House Democrats filed into the Senate chamber to watch the votes.

Some senators announced how they planned to vote ahead of time.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins will also vote to advance both measures, a spokesperson confirmed to CNN.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that while she finds both bills flawed, she will vote “yes” on both.

“I wish that I could say with a degree of confidence that either one of these measures were going to pass,” Murkowski said. “But conventional wisdom is that both of them are going to fail. I personally think both of them are flawed, but having said that I’m going to vote for both of them.”

What happens after the votes

Several senators said ahead of the votes on Thursday that they are trying to find a way to get a deal that would look something like this: A short-term spending bill to reopen the government, combined with an agreement to draft a border security package.

The details are still being hashed out, but more than a dozen senators are trying to pressure Trump to agree to reopen the government temporarily and Pelosi to make more commitments on border security.

Roughly 15 senators will take to the floor this afternoon to make this pitch.

Sen. Rob Portman said that senators are looking for a “third way” to get the government open after the two votes fail Friday.

Asked if Trump needs to say he’d open the government in the short term, Portman said: “I think so, yeah. But he needs to have some commitment that they are going to get this resolved so it’s not just a short-term opening and where we’re right back where we are now.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said: “Hopefully we can find some third approach. We have about a dozen of us — maybe more, six and six, I can’t remember. A good many yesterday. Talking about a way to find a short-term CR acceptable to the President. I’m pretty confident if we ever got in a room without the shutdown hovering over us, that we could find a way to get this done.”

The White House may also invite the group of eight congressional leaders for a meeting with Trump as soon as Friday, an official said. That decision is being deliberated now at the White House.

Aides are unsure whether Pelosi would accept the invitation, but as CNN has reported, there is hope within the White House that the failure of two competing plans to reopen the government could lead to more negotiations. Talks about bringing Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer back to meet with Trump could signal another push from the White House to try for a deal, after the President’s attempt to float one unilaterally fizzled.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy earlier Thursday called on congressional leaders to meet again on Friday to work on a deal.

“I’m requesting that we all get in a room tomorrow and stay in that room until we solve the problem,” said McCarthy, a California Republican.

House Democrats have repeatedly passed legislation to reopen the government since taking over the majority in the lower chamber and continue to do so this week. But none of those proposals have included the money requested by the President to fund the wall, triggering White House veto threats and making the bills dead on arrival in the Senate.

Competing proposals to reopen government

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Schumer announced earlier in the week that they had reached an agreement to hold Thursday’s votes, which will be the first major movement in the Senate related to the shutdown since it started just days before Christmas.

The Republican measure is in line with what the President outlined last weekend when he asked for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants.

Democrats swiftly rejected that offer and have steadfastly opposed allocating the funds requested by the President for his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border.

The Democratic measure to reopen government would temporarily reopen government into early February.

Seven Democrats would have needed to crossover for the GOP bill to pass — Republicans hold 53 Senate seats. And 13 Republicans would have to crossover for the Democratic bill to pass, which is unlikely unless Trump were to reverse course and support the bill.

The decision to allow votes on measures that are not certain to receive the bipartisan support needed to pass Congress and be signed into law by the President marks a shift for McConnell, who had previously said repeatedly after the shutdown started that he would not take up legislation related to the funding impasse unless it was clear it would be able to pass Congress and be signed into law by the President.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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