With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a procedural vote on a senate measure that would keep the federal government running through Feb. 8 to begin at 1 am Monday, a bipartisan group of senators signaled that they’re nearing an agreement to reopen the government following a Sunday afternoon meeting, the Hill reported.
Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson said the group had reached a “consensus of understanding” – essentially agreeing to the broad strokes of a plan to satisfy recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans, per the Hill.
As they left the meeting in Maine senator Susan Collins’s office, some members expressed optimism that they will reach an understanding, if not a final agreement, that would let them move forward.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham predicted that the group could cobble together a deal before the 1 am vote.
“Yeah because if it doesn’t happen tonight it’s going to be a lot harder,” he said, alluding to the fact that most federal agencies have elected to wait until Monday before implementing the terms of the shutdown (here’s a quick guide to what departments and services will be impacted by the shutdown)…
As the BBC pointed out, the closure of many federal services will be felt around the country and hundreds of thousands of federal staff face unpaid leave.
According to Politico, the senators took their proposal to McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after the 90-minute meeting. The plan would reopen the government through Feb. 8 and have McConnell commit on the Senate floor to holding an immigration vote before that date.
The previous government shutdown started in September 2013 and endured for 16 days…
However, this is the first time a government shutdown has happened while one party in this case, the Republicans – controls both Congress and the White House.
And according to the Associated Press, the 2013 shutdown left 800,000 government workers on temporary leave.
The bipartisan group isn’t crafting separate legislation. Instead, senators say the bulk of their talks were about how to get 60 votes for the bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, paired with a commitment that will satisfy Democrats on bringing up an immigration bill. Since before the shutdown even began at 12:01 am ET on Saturday morning, Republicans and Democrats have traded accusations of blame.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he would bring such a bill up for a vote in the House if it passes the Senate.
Friday’s procedural vote to advance a four-week stopgap that had passed the House on Thursday came in at 50-49, far short of the 60 needed to block a filibuster and advance the bill.
The crux of the disagreement is this: Democrats have demanded protection from deportation of 690,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors.
“I hope it is just a matter of hours or days. But we need to have a substantive answer, and the only person who can lead us to that is President Trump. This is his shutdown,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told the CBS network.
Meanwhile, Republicans want funding for border security – including the border wall – and immigration reforms, as well as increased military spending. Specifically, the White House has asked for $18 billion to begin construction on 700 miles of Trump’s promised border wall.
The group of centrists want an assurance that the Senate would take up an immigration bill in early February and stay on it until something passes, they said.
McConnell would “be more than happy to publicly state he’ll be willing to move to immigration at a very near time,” Tennessee Senator Bob Corker told Politico.
However, there’s no guarantee that a Republican promise to bring an immigration plan – a plan that notably hasn’t even been drafted yet – to the floor for a vote in early February will garner widespread Democratic support. At least one Democratic leader – Illinois’s Dick Durbin – seems skeptical.
“We have to have in our own mind some way to ensure that the House feels a need to bring up the issue as well,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
The proposal that was shot down by the Senate on Friday would have extended federal funding until Feb. 16 and reauthorized for six years a health insurance program for poor children.
If a deal doesn’t happen by Monday morning, senators on both sides of the aisle worry that it could exacerbate partisan bickering, almost guaranteeing that the government will remain closed for the bulk of the coming week. Still, Schumer and McConnell haven’t dismissed the idea.
Politico said the group of moderates pushing for the plan includes roughly 20 lawmakers.
The group of roughly 20 moderates includes Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
We imagine more details will emerge as the 1 am procedural vote promised by McConnell draws nearer…