With the government shutdown finishing its second day on Sunday, the Senate will take the floor at noon on Monday to vote on whether or not to fund the government. Nevertheless, the full effect of the government shutdown will be felt Monday morning, as thousands of government workers won’t come into their jobs as they usually would.
The Monday afternoon vote is on a three-week spending bill that would expire on February 8 — one week earlier than the February 16 deadline in the House-passed bill. Senate Republicans and Democrats are still working to find some kind of agreement on a path forward for an immigration bill, which would address the status of people covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Here’s what we know so far.
A bipartisan group tries to compromise
A bipartisan group of 20 moderate senators including Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Flake, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Durbin, Mark Warner (D-VA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) met this afternoon, trying to reach a compromise to re-open the government. The deal they were discussing would keep the government open through early February; the senators were also looking for a promise from leadership to take up an immigration bill in the next few weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also met around 5 pm this afternoon, but there were few details on whether the senators were close to an agreement. While Schumer blocked McConnell’s motion to vote earlier on Sunday night, Republican leaders are starting to sound more optimistic about Monday’s vote now set up to reopen the government.
“I think the minority leader wants to just give everybody a chance to just chew on it and sort of understand it. So that’s why he didn’t want to have the vote tonight. On balance, it’s better to have a successful vote tomorrow at noon than it is a failed vote,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the No. 2 Republican, told reporters Sunday night. “I think it takes a little while for people to absorb what’s happened here, and to get out of their bunker and hopefully meet in the DMZ and try to work things out. I’m optimistic.”
The general contours of an agreement, as outlined by McConnell on the Senate floor, would be a pledge to open an immigration debate after February 8, the expiration of the Senate’s revised spending bill, if an agreement were not reached before. Cornyn said that they had not yet decided which immigration bill would be brought up in that case.
Otherwise, the earlier hours of Sunday was marked by more political theatrics. Some Democratic senators attempted to introduce legislation to keep the government open for a few days while immigration negotiations continue, but those were shot down by Republican leadership.
Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans alike are casting blame on top White House officials including Chief of Staff John Kelly and Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller for telling Trump to reject two bipartisan immigration deals, including one with $20 billion of funding for a border wall attached.
Though negotiations have continued behind the scenes, Democrats and Republicans are publicly digging into their respective positions and blaming each other for the situation.
Senate Republicans say the onus is on Democrats to agree to re-open the government.
“I hope Democrats come to their senses and vote to open the government before the work day starts tomorrow,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). “It’s in the Democrats’ hands. It’s up to them.”
House Republicans threw a wrench in weekend negotiations
House Republicans complicated this weekend’s talks by vowing to not negotiate on an immigration deal — a must-have for Democrats — unless a spending bill is passed and the government re-opens.
“Senate Democrats shut down this government, and now Senate Democrats need to open this government back up,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) during a Saturday speech. Ryan told Democrats to “Come to your senses, do the right thing.”
Across the Capitol basement, House Democrats held their own press conference on Saturday to blast Republicans for refusing to negotiate and said they would not pass a short-term spending bill unless Republicans agreed to parity on defense and non-defense spending and an immigration deal.
“I have said, and I say it again that we are willing to go to a short-term CR if we have come to an agreement on parity, which is important to us...if we come to an agreement for an outline on DACA and border security,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “We’re saying these are the terms under which we’ll pass the appropriations committee to write the bills. Then there’s reason to have a CR. Otherwise, these could go on forever.”
With disagreement not only among Republicans and Democrats, but also House and Senate leaders on which way to go, Pelosi called on President Trump to lead in the situation and get everyone into the same room to hash out their disagreement.
“He’s got to get everyone in a room,” Pelosi said. “He’s got to lead.”
But so far, the Trump White House has sided with House Republicans, releasing a statement late Friday night saying they would not negotiate over immigration as long as the government is shut down.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described the difficulties of trying to negotiate with the president in a different way, during a floor speech on Saturday.
“Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Schumer said.
We now know Democrats were willing to concede on a border wall in exchange for a DACA deal
Throughout immigration talks, Trump has been clear that the one thing he wanted above all was a border wall.
This was the thing that Democrats were always least likely to concede on, but Democratic leadership has now confirmed that a deal that laid out funding for Trump’s border wall in exchange for a legal path for DACA recipients was put in front of the president on Friday.
“During the meeting, in exchange for strong [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] protections, I reluctantly put the border wall on the table for the discussion. Even that was not enough to entice the president to finish the deal,” Schumer said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on his meeting with President Trump: “In exchange for strong DACA protections, I reluctantly put the border wall on the table for discussion. Even that was not enough to entice the President to finish the deal” https://t.co/q29SEcag2b— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) January 20, 2018
Leaving a House Democratic caucus meeting on Saturday morning, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), one of the most active members in the immigration fight, said that as much as the idea of a border wall pained him, he was ready to entertain the notion as long as it meant a deal for young Dreamers.
“It’s not about a wall. We’ll build him a wall. Tell us how high you want it,” Gutierrez said. “But free the Dreamers. At this point, I’m not supporting any CR that doesn’t include a fix. Now, what I am telling you is, if that fix includes a wall, I’m ready.”
The Senate failed to reach a deal on Friday — and a spending bill failed
The Senate failed to pass a short-term spending bill that the House passed on Thursday night. The House bill would have extended the shutdown deadline into February, but it failed to get enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster — with both Democrats and Republicans voting in opposition.
It’s worth noting that senators of both parties broke ranks with their respective caucuses on the bill. Five Democrats sided with the majority of Republicans to vote for the bill: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Doug Jones (AL), Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Manchin (WV), and Joe Donnelly (IN). Meanwhile, four Republicans broke ranks to cast “no” votes: Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Rand Paul (KY), Mike Lee (UT), and Jeff Flake (AZ).
The spending bill needed 60 votes in order to advance in the Senate, which meant Republicans needed Democratic votes to keep the government open. With Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) still out of the Senate for health reasons, Republicans needed at least nine Democratic votes to pass the spending bill. But an impasse over immigration negotiations pushed Democrats and some Republicans to stand against this short-term spending deal.
Democrats had offered to support a very short spending deal that would keep the government open for a couple of days into next week, the idea being that they can come up with an immigration deal in that time.
I support an idea floated by my @SenateGOP colleagues: pass a clean CR for a few days to give us a hard, final deadline & keep both sides at the table. We’ll reach a deal that fully funds our military & the opioid fight, CHIP, vets, pensions, disaster aid & protects Dreamers.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 19, 2018
But Democrats weren’t the only ones who voted against the short-term spending bill. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who voted no on the short-term CR Friday, said he agreed with Democrats on a shorter deadline extension.
“The Democrats have offered to go for a CR for a couple days to give us time to actually come together on these issues,” Flake said. “That’s the right approach. We won’t be any better on the 16th of February [than] we will be next week. So let’s move it for a couple days.”
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) also voted no. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), who initially said he would be against the CR, over concern for defense spending, said he struck a deal with the GOP that has won his support.
This means that not only can Republican leadership not count on Democratic votes to keep the government open, they couldn’t even count on the votes from their own rank-and-file members at this point. That makes it difficult to pin shutdown blame on any one party.
Democrats were more serious about shutting down the government this time
Each time a short-term spending bill came up, more Democrats have voted against it. For instance, just eight Democratic senators voted against a CR on December 7. That number increased the next time it came up for a vote on December 22, when a total of 29 Democratic senators, plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), voted against it.
In late December, 17 Democratic senators voted to pass the spending bill. By Friday evening, the majority of Democrats voted “no” on the CR.
The Democrats who voted yes are all from red states, and most of them are facing difficult midterms later this year. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and newly minted Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) all voted to pass the CR, along with the majority of Republicans.
One notable exception among red-state Democrats: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Tester published a lengthy statement on Thursday explaining why he could not vote for another short-term spending bill.
Why did some Senators vote “no” on a short-term spending bill?
Senators have varying reasons for refusing to pass a spending bill, but the biggest is the lack of a deal on DACA. Back in the fall, President Trump announced he would end the program and punt it to Congress to fix. He also set a March deadline to fix DACA before recipients would lose their protected status — but though he has waffled, he has made statements supportive of a DACA fix, leaving many to wonder what, exactly, the holdup is.
A group of senators including Durbin, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Graham, and Flake have been working on a bipartisan DACA deal and trying to get votes for it in Congress. Even as their proposal gains steam in the Senate, conservative House Republicans made it clear they didn’t want to support it.
Many Democratic senators are also frustrated with a lack of action on other issues, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (also known as CHIP) and funding for community health centers. Others are just frustrated that there is no long-term spending deal after months of negotiations.