Senate rejects two competing bills to end shutdown

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

The shutdown continues with 800,000 federal workers still furloughed or unpaid. The Senate finally voted Thursday on two bills. Each one needed 60 votes to pass, and — no surprise — they didn’t get them. The first bill, which was crafted by the White House and backed by Republicans, would have provided $5.7 billion to build President Donald Trump’s wall on the southern border while extending three years’ protection to some unauthorized immigrants, including registered “Dreamers”. It also deeply restricted access to asylum. But Democrats claimed that voting for it would let the president treat federal workers like bargaining chips.

“A vote for the president’s plan is an endorsement of government by extortion. If we let him do it today, he’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. The whole structure of our government will change and the chaos that we now see will be magnified,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

New Jersey’s two Democrats voted no. Democrats instead supported a so-called clean spending bill with no money for a wall that would’ve reopened and funded the government through Feb. 8 while both sides negotiated a compromise. But the president would never sign it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued.

“The American people will see plainly what senators want to make a law and clean up this mess and which senators are continuing to make political points and nothing else. Making laws verses making points, that’s the choice,” he said.

That bill also fell short. The president tweeted Thursday, “We will not cave!”

Now what? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are working on a $49 billion Homeland Security bill which she claimed would show Democrats’ commitment to border security. Pelosi didn’t say whether it contains any money for a wall, but it could provide a starting point for discussion. Pelosi also managed to clear up one sticky item Wednesday when she emphatically disinvited the president from delivering his State of the Union address to Congress while the government remains shut down. Trump finally agreed late last night.

“The president accepted fact that State of Union should be at a time when we can talk about the state of the union, when government is not shut down. I’m glad we could get that off the table,” Pelosi said. “It is so unimportant in the lives of the American people, especially those who are victims of the shutdown, to be hostages to the president’s applause lines in a campaign speech.”

The shutdown continues to impact people’s lives. Air traffic controllers and pilots associations yesterday issued a grim warning, stating, “We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines and the traveling public due to the government shutdown,” a joint statement read. “We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has reportedly asked agencies for estimates of what programs could be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March or April. On Friday, federal employees who are furloughed or working without pay will miss their second paycheck.