Democrat Sees ‘Ray of Hope’ in Shutdown Talks
(Bloomberg) -- Negotiations to end the partial shutdown are continuing "at the highest levels," the second-ranking Senate Democrat said Friday as as air travel disruptions highlighted the growing impact of the standoff on key areas of the economy.
"There is a ray of hope but only a small one," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said on the chamber’s floor, calling on President Donald Trump to agree to a plan to reopen federal agencies on the shutdown’s 35th day. "He alone can make that decision and make it work," Durbin said.
Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi said, "I do think there’ll be some way forward announced by the White House this afternoon.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held talks with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the White House Thursday after the chamber blocked two rival spending bills to reopen the government.
The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights into New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Friday because of a shortage of air-traffic control staff. While the delay was lifted after an hour and 22 minutes, the disruption cascaded through East Coast airports such as Newark Liberty International and Philadelphia.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter the shutdown is "pushing our airspace to the breaking point" and called on Trump to agree to reopen the government.
Separately, the Internal Revenue Service unit responsible for processing tax returns and answering the phone lines is struggling to get employees back to work as the filing season is getting underway.
Despite glimmers of optimism among some lawmakers, there’s no clear path to end the shutdown as the White House and Democrats remain at odds over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has threatened to veto legislation that doesn’t include wall funding.
About 800,000 federal employees who are furloughed or working without pay are missing a second paycheck on Friday.
House Democrats postponed plans to unveil a proposal on Friday for securing the border without erecting new barriers. Pelosi told reporters Democrats would hold off "to see what’s happening on the Senate side." Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said he expects it to call for more than $5.7 billion in spending on technology, personnel and other aspects of security.
The talks were triggered after the Senate on Thursday rejected two proposals -- one by Trump and one by Democrats -- intended to reopen the government. They were the first votes the Senate has taken on funding the government since the Dec. 22 start of the shutdown, now the longest in modern U.S. history.
A bipartisan group of 16 senators -- eight from each party -- say they want to reopen the government for three weeks to allow time for work on a bipartisan border security deal.
The president on Wednesday acquiesced to Pelosi’s cancellation of his planned Jan. 29 State of the Union address in her chamber until the government reopens. The Treasury Department, Department of Homeland Security and Environmental Protection Agency are closed as Trump fights for his 2016 campaign promise to build a wall at the border.
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