Congress was back to work Sunday trying to strike a spending deal that would end the government shutdown that’s now in its second day.
The focus will be on the Senate, where Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled chamber failed overnight Friday to pass a spending bill to keep open the government. With just 51 senators, Republicans needed support from at least nine Senate Democrats to get 60 votes on the measure to break a Democratic filibuster, then move to a final vote.
However, Democrats refused to provide the votes until they strike a deal with President Trump to protect from deportation illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children by their parents.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans were also on Capitol Hill on Saturday for another rare weekend session to try to end the politically unpopular shutdown, especially before Monday, when as many as 1 million federal workers will be furloughed without pay and many needed but non-essential government services with be curtailed because the government has no money to provide them.
However, much of their efforts and political rhetoric was more about finger-pointing and trying to dodge blame. Democrats bristled as Republicans put the blame largely on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling him “Shutdown Chuck.”
“Amnesty for illegals is more important,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Sunday. The GOP-controlled House passed its version of the spending bill before sending it to the Senate, where it has stalled.
Democrats say their concerns about the spending bill go beyond protecting young illegal immigrants from deportation to include providing disaster relief and boosting spending for opioid treatment and other domestic programs.
The scene highlighted the political stakes for both parties in an election-year shutdown whose consequences are far from clear.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll have a vote by 1 a.m. Monday to break the Democratic filibuster on the spending bill.
“The American people cannot begin to understand why the Senate Democratic leader thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration,” McConnell, R-Ky., hours after a last-chance Senate vote failed.
Democrats feel “very, very strongly about the issues” said Schumer, D-N.Y.
“The American people cannot begin to understand why the Senate Democratic leader thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration.”
Republicans began Saturday hopeful they might pick off Democratic support for a three-week version and bring the episode to a quick end.
Democrats are insisting on an alternative lasting only several days — which they think would pressure Republicans to cut an immigration deal — and say they’ll kill the three-week version when the Senate votes on it by early Monday.
The shutdown came on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. As lawmakers bickered in the Capitol, protesters marched outside in a reprise of the women’s march from a year ago. The president remained out of sight and canceled plans to travel to his resort in Florida for the weekend. He did tweet, making light of the timing by saying Democrats “wanted to give me a nice present” to mark the start of his second year in office.
And Trump resumed his social media commentary early Sunday, before lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill, tweeting that it was “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border.”
“The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.” He suggested that if the stalemate drags on, majority Republicans should consider changing Senate rules to do away with the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation and “vote on real, long term budget.”
Trump earlier had worked the phones, staying in touch with McConnell, while White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and budget chief Mick Mulvaney met at the Capitol with House Republicans. GOP lawmakers voiced support for the White House stance of not negotiating while the government was shuttered.
Tempers were short and theatrics high.
Lawmakers bickered over blame, hypocrisy and even the posters brought to the House floor. While neither chamber voted on a measure to open the government, the House did vote on whether a poster displayed by Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama violated the House rules on decorum. The House voted to allow the poster, which bore a photo of Schumer, and the New York senator’s quote on “the politics of idiocy” from 2013.
While Republicans blame the breakdown on Schumer, Democrats increasingly focused their messaging on criticizing Trump.
“Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Schumer said.
Short compared Democrats’ actions to “a 2-year-old temper tantrum.”
Republicans seemed content to hope additional Democrats will break as pressure builds and the impact of the shutdown becomes clearer. GOP lawmakers argued that Democrats were blocking extra Pentagon money by keeping government closed and thwarting a long-term budget deal.
But pressure on Republicans could mount when the new business week begins and the impact becomes more apparent to the public.
Social Security and most other safety-net programs were unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions continued, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is reached before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.
On immigration, Democrats are seeking a deal to protect so-called DREAMers. About 700,000 of them have been shielded against deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which Trump will end in March. He’s given lawmakers until then to pass legislation restoring the protections, but he has demanded added money for his proposed border wall with Mexico as a price.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.