Senate at Impasse as Votes Delayed Until Monday: Shutdown Update
(Bloomberg) -- The House and Senate were in session Sunday with a federal government shutdown in its second day amid a spending-bill impasse in Congress. The House is supposed to be on recess this week, but members stayed in Washington as negotiations continue.
Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day:
Senate Adjourns Without Funding Deal (9:40 p.m.)
The government shutdown will drag into a third day after Senate leaders failed to reach agreement late Sunday on immigration and other issues that have left lawmakers at a stalemate. The Senate adjourned until Monday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll hold a vote at noon Monday to clear the way for passage of a stopgap funding bill, and indicated he would move forward on immigration legislation later. If the outstanding issues aren’t near resolution by the time the next funding deadline nears, McConnell said, “it would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security, and related issues."
But Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he hasn’t agreed to the deal, which would keep the government open through Feb. 8.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who had been one of four Republican holdouts when the Senate failed to advance a temporary funding bill, said Sunday he’s prepared to accept the deal described by McConnell. Senator Lindsey Graham also supports the agreement.
That brings McConnell closer to getting the 60 votes needed to advance the measure, though he still would need support from several Democrats.
McConnell spoke after meeting with several Republican senators and White House legislative director Marc Short. Short then headed to the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Ryan hasn’t weighed in but a House Republican aide said the chamber will take up whatever the Senate sends over. Several rank-and-file House Republicans so far have rejected making any commitment to vote on compromise legislation developed in the Senate.
White House, Graham Trade Barbs Amid Stalemate (7:27 p.m.)
The White House blasted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been leading a bipartisan effort to end the stalemate over the government shutdown, the latest sign that both parties are having trouble finding a way out.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley called the South Carolina senator “an outlier” in a statement Sunday after Graham publicly criticized a senior Trump aide known for hardline views on restricting immigration.
“As long as Senator Graham chooses to support legislation that sides with people in this country illegally and unlawfully instead of our own American citizens, we’re going nowhere,” Gidley said. “He’s been an outlier for years.”
Graham had been cultivating Trump for months, often playing golf with the president, up until partisan differences on immigration came to a head in the shutdown stand-off. Graham, a member of the bipartisan ”Gang of Eight” senators who in 2013 brokered a deal on comprehensive immigration reform, had again tried to find a middle way.
He pressed Trump to accept a compromise on immigration issues ahead of the shutdown that Graham hoped would avoid an impasse triggered by Democratic demands to restore protections against young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Graham became one of four Republican senators to side with Democrats in the vote Friday night against the Republican stopgap funding measure.
In the midst of efforts by a group of more than 20 moderate senators Sunday to try to reach an agreement to end the shutdown, Graham told reporters that Trump’s “heart is right on this issue” but complained “every time we have a proposal it is yanked back by staff members.”
He then singled out Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, who has vocally sought to curtail immigration since his days as an aide to then-Senator Jeff Sessions.
"As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration we are going nowhere,” Graham told reporters. “He’s been an outlier for years.” -- Erik Wasson and Sahil Kapur
McConnell, Schumer to Meet on Centrist Plan (5:50 p.m.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer are set to meet on a set of options to end the government shutdown that was hashed out by a bipartisan group of centrist senators, said Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.
The leaders met separately with senators from their own parties, who presented the proposal to extend stopgap funding for the government through Feb. 8. It includes assurances that there would be a separate vote on legislation to put into law a program that protects from deportation some of the undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said “McConnell listened very carefully” to the bipartisan compromise and that she “remains optimistic that we will find a way out.”
But John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said he believes the government will remain closed on Monday. He said he’s “pretty confident” lawmakers will take up immigration issues in February but that making any commitments “rewards bad behavior” by Democrats.
President Donald Trump has spoken with the second-ranking Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress about the impasse, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement emailed to reporters Sunday. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has conferred with House Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell, Sanders said.
-- Erik Wasson and Steven T. Dennis
Options for Compromise Offered by Centrist Group (4:06 p.m.)
A group of Senate moderates working on a compromise plan to break the stalemate over funding and immigration that forced a partial shutdown of the government delivered a set of options Sunday to party leaders.
About 20 centrist senator from both parties worked out a set of options to extend stopgap funding for the government through Feb. 8. Part of the plan would include a commitment for a separate vote on legislation to put into law a program that protects from deportation some of the undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. That is a central demand of Democrats.
The group split up to brief Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
“We recognize that ultimately the decision” will be up to McConnell and Schumer, Republican Senator Susan Collins said.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that if McConnell makes a commitment to bring up immigration legislation there probably will be enough votes to extend government funding through Feb. 8.
Democrats will have “plenty of leverage” if they agree to end the shutdown because their votes will be needed on broader budget deal, he said.
“I’m begging the White House to find a way to work with us and get to yes on a proposal that’s reasonable,” Graham said. If a compromise isn’t reached Sunday night, “I am really worried about where this thing goes, because it’s going to get nastier in terms of rhetoric."
Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, called the discussions by the moderates “constructive.”
“They are anxious to find a solution and I’m hopeful,” Durbin said. “If enough Republicans join them, they could be a force to bring this to the right ending."
A key part of any way out of the stalemate is a procedure to assure a vote on the Democratic demand for legislation on immigration, he said.
But there’s no guarantee that the House Republican majority will go for the legislation, or that it will get backing from the White House.
House Republicans were set to convene at 3 p.m. in Washington, according to two GOP aides, in anticipation of late-night Senate debate on a stopgap funding measure. Any compromise worked out in the Senate would also have to be passed by the House.
--Erik Wasson and Steven T. Dennis
Senate Group Work on Compromise to Break Stalemate (2:10 p.m.)
A bipartisan group of 20 Senate centrists was working Sunday on a compromise plan to get the government funded for three more weeks while the immigration debate continues. But there was no assurance that party leaders -- or the House -- would go along.
“We are really close,” Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said outside the meeting in Republican Senator Susan Collins’s office. “They might not be,” he said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
The group is pulling together a proposal to extend stopgap funding for the government through Feb. 8. The deal also would guarantee of a separate vote on legislation to put into law a program that protects from deportation some of the undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a central demand of Democrats, said Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.
If the temporary funding plan gets the assent of McConnell and Schumer, there is a good chance an immigration bill could pass the Senate. Then it would be taken up in the House, where immigration hardliners show no signs of budging.
President Donald Trump, who could give Republicans political cover to vote for immigration legislation, has been giving conflicting signals. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who’s been one of the main negotiators on immigration, said White House staff are now demanding $33 billion for border security when Trump said last week he could make a deal for less than $18 billion.
“An agreement to work on all the outstanding issues should be enough to get Democratic support,” Graham said. “I hope the White House will come on board but the Senate needs to lead.”
-- Erik Wasson
Senate GOP Oppose Trump’s ‘Nuclear Option’ Idea (11:46 a.m.)
The Senate Republic Conference “opposes changing the rules on legislation,” says David Popp, spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that Republicans pursue the “nuclear option” to get the government reopened. The so-called nuclear option would allow the Senate to vote on spending bills with a simple majority of members, no longer needing 60 votes.
McConnell’s swift rebuke showed the distance between Trump and the Senate leader on the shutdown -- hinting at a lack of coordinated Republican strategy to bring it to an end, despite the fact they’re both from the same party.
Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said that allowing one party to pass legislation with the slimmest of majorities “would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created, going back to our Founding Fathers.”
--Erik Wasson, Kathleen Miller, Anna Edney
Ryan, Mulvaney Say Reopen Govern, Then Talk DACA (11:14)
Democrats should allow the government to reopen and then resume talks on DACA, top Republicans said on Sunday talk shows. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on CBS that the GOP wants to solve the issue of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides protection for young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors. The House is “waiting to see” if the Senate votes today. Budget chief Mick Mulvaney made similar comments on three shows: “There’s a long way, I think, towards getting a larger deal, which is why it’s so important to go ahead and open the government now,” Mulvaney said on CNN. -- Mark Niquette and Ben Brody
Trump GOP May Need ‘Nuclear Option’ (08:45 a.m.)
President Donald Trump says on Twitter that if the shutdown stalemate continues, Republicans should consider the so-called “nuclear option” in the Senate, which would allow them to vote on a long-term budget with a simple majority and no more continuing resolutions. “The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked,” Trump says to kick off a day seen as the final chance for a rapid end to the shutdown.
Pivotal Day Could Yield Quick Deal or Long Impasse
Congress is holding an unusual Sunday session that may be lawmakers’ last chance for a quick end to the shutdown.
While the partial shutdown began officially at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, federal agencies are largely waiting until Monday to implement it. That gives lawmakers one more deadline to act before the shutdown is in full force.
Publicly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority LeaderChuck Schumer are dug in to their opposite positions. Behind the scenes, a senior House Republican said Saturday that vote-counters were being told a deal could be reached Sunday to reopen the government.
Failing that, McConnell threatened a 1 a.m. vote Monday on his proposal to fund the government for three weeks, with no action on Democrats’ immigration proposal.
"We’ll be right back at this tomorrow and as long as it takes" to pass a spending bill, McConnell said Saturday evening.
Schumer told CNN he still wants a bipartisan deal that sets budget caps for defense and non-defense spending, protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, and provides disaster relief funds. He said the White House hasn’t called him and “they say they are not negotiating -- that’s foolish.”
The senior House Republican said vote-counters are being told a deal could be reached Sunday to reopen and fund the government until Feb. 8 with a promise for a floor vote on Democrats’ demand to protect young immigrants from deportation.
Some Democrats sound more flexible about the terms of reopening the government, seeking more of a solid path toward an immigration bill and other goals than immediate action.
"Depending on the commitments they make, that could be good," said Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. "If it’s just, well, Feb. 8 and just another delay, no, that’s not going to be acceptable.”
Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin also showed willingness to compromise, but said there are concerns that even if an immigration bill passed the chamber, the Republican House would never take it up. That happened in 2013, when the Senate approved a comprehensive immigration plan that was ignored by the House.
“We don’t want a similar fate. What we’re looking for is not a guaranteed outcome, but an opportunity outcome. A freestanding bill is not a very great opportunity,” Durbin said.
A bipartisan group of 19 senators, led by Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin, also met with the goal of agreeing on a plan to present to leadership on Sunday.
“We’re trying to see if we can talk to the leadership on both sides and tell them what we think is a pathway forward,” Manchin said. Immigration “has to be part of the package,” he said.
The White House insists that it won’t negotiate on immigration until Congress passes a spending bill to reopen the government. -- Laura Litvan and Billy House
Here’s What Happened Saturday:
- The U.S. government began a partial shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after Senate Democrats and some Republicans voted to block a stopgap spending measure that would have extended funding through Feb. 16. The vote was 50-49, with 60 votes needed to advance the measure.
- Republicans and Democrats dug in their heels publicly over who’s to blame for the shutdown while behind the scenes lawmakers continued to discuss a short-term stopgap bill. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of mischaracterizing the senator’s discussions with Trump. Schumer said, “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”
- Because of the shutdown, Trump stayed home from a planned weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a lavish party celebrating a year since his inauguration. He angrily blasted Democrats, writing on Twitter, “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at email@example.com, Billy House in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org, Erik Wasson in Washington at email@example.com, Steven T. Dennis in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.
With assistance from Laura Litvan, Billy House, Erik Wasson, Steven T. Dennis