WASHINGTON: US Senate leaders have agreed to vote today on competing proposals to end a government shutdown now in its second month, but the chances are slim that either will reopen federal agencies, reports AFP.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Democrat Chuck Schumer announced an agreement on the Senate floor Tuesday for a pair of test votes.The first would be a procedural step on a measure that funds all shuttered branches of government through September, and includes President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding and his proposal on immigration policy.
A second vote would be on a stop-gap measure that funds government until February 8, to allow for debate over border security and immigration, while also letting Trump’s upcoming State of the Union address before Congress proceed.
It also would include disaster relief money already passed in the House.
Each proposal would require 60 votes to advance in the 100-member body, a high threshold, given the current level of partisan rancor over who is to blame for the shutdown.
A senior Republican Senate aide told AFP it was unlikely Republicans would sign on to the short-term funding bill, and that even if they did, the president would not sign it.
But the Democratic leader took to the floor to say the votes “could break us out of the morass we are in,” and he specifically encouraged Republicans to sign on to the stop-gap bill to briefly open government.“It will allow us to then debate, without hostage-taking, without temper tantrum... how we can best do border security,” he said.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump had a message Tuesday for Democrats hoping he’ll relent in the political arm wrestling that has seen funds blocked to parts of the government for a record 32 days: “No Cave!”
Trump’s defiant tweet again blamed congressional Democrats for the chaos, insisting he will not lift his shutdown on federal government funding unless they approve his $5.7 billion plan for more walls along the US-Mexican border.
“Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security. With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S.,” Trump tweeted.
“The Dems know this but want to play political games.”
Trump triggered a partial government shutdown on December 22 -- refusing to sign off on funding everything from FBI salaries to the National Park Service—as a way of pressuring the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives to back the wall project.
But with Democrats refusing to give in and Trump sticking to his hardball tactics, political paralysis in Washington has morphed into growing day-to-day pain across the country as some 800,000 federal employees adjust to life without salaries.
Trump’s main opponent, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was adamant that the president is to blame. “#EndTheShutdown now,” she tweeted.
Pelosi, speaker of the Democrat-led House, argues that border security funding cannot even be discussed before the shutdown ends, accusing Trump of “holding Americans hostage.”