The U.S. Senate on Thursday afternoon failed to move ahead on plans from each party to force an end to an almost five-week partial government shutdown, as neither side was able to muster the 60 votes needed to advance measures to fund the operations of agencies which lost funding back before Christmas, all but insuring that the shutdown would continue into the weekend and beyond.
“The least we could do is re-open our government,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), as he sparred with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the floor over who was responsible for the shutdown.
“The President has been at the negotiating table, ready to talk and fix this,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Democrats have made the opposite political calculation.”
But McConnell was unable to rally enough support, as the Senate voted 50-47 – short of the 60 votes needed – to advance the President’s immigration plan.
The Senate also failed to get 60 votes for a plan from Democrats, as the Senate voted 52-44 to proceed – but it received more votes than the President’s alternative, as six Republicans broke ranks to back the plan, which would have extended funding for shuttered agencies through February 8.
The Senate votes – the first this year on the shutdown – came after GOP Senators met behind closed doors for over an hour with Vice President Mike Pence, as both parties tried to hold together in this shutdown fight.
“Shutdowns are always stupid, this is a particularly stupid one,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who urged President Trump to back a short-term funding measure to re-open the government, and allow for talks on border security – an idea that sounded much like the argument of Democrats.
But Portman refused to vote for the Democratic plan, as he chided his colleagues.
“We’re talking past each other,” the Ohio Republican told reporters.
As the Senate votes began, a group of House members marched from their side of the Capitol over to the Senate floor to watch the proceedings – but their presence did not alter the outcome.
What’s next? Senators of both parties vowed to try to press ahead with their own negotiations, as the President entertained the idea of a three-week short term funding plan, to give lawmakers extra time to figure out a deal, as the White House said it wanted a ‘down payment’ on a border wall.
“We’re talking,” Senate Democratic Leader Schumer told reporters multiple times, as he left the office of the Majority Leader.
“We’ve got to figure out a path forward,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), part of a large bipartisan group which spoke on the Senate floor after the pair of votes. While many of them talked about compromise – it wasn’t immediately clear where the middle ground might be.