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Funding Bills Fail in the Senate Again – What’s Next?

Funding Bills Fail in the Senate Again – What’s Next?

While the partial government shutdown is no laughing matter for furloughed federal employees who are about to miss their second consecutive paycheck, it is also becoming increasingly uncomfortable for members of Congress. Across the congressional aisle, Republicans and Democrats are fretting. They had hoped the two bills voted on in the Senate on Thursday, January 24 would reset negotiations and signal a way forward, even though both failed.

…more Republicans than Democrats may be about to buckle under pressure from their home states…

First up was the GOP offering, which would have reopened those government agencies currently shut down while also providing the $5.7 billion for border wall funding requested by President Donald Trump. The measure failed 50 – 47, with one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voting in favor and two Republicans, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Lee of Utah, voting against.

Crossing the Aisle

Immediately following the vote on the GOP bill, senators considered the competing option from Democrats that would have temporarily opened the government without authorizing any money for the border wall. The second came a little closer to passing, indicating that momentum was on the Democrats’ side. This was voted down, 52 – 44, as more Republicans than was perhaps expected crossed the aisle. The usual suspects – GOP senators who often vote with Democrats – were anticipated to defect and did not disappoint, but Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were joined by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).

Both votes were procedural, requiring 60, rather than a simple majority, to pass. If anything can be drawn from the outcome, it is that more Republicans than Democrats may be about to buckle under pressure from their home states and odds of a bill to reopen the government getting through Congress without providing Trump’s wall money may have improved.

The question then becomes: Would the president sign such legislation and, if he did not, would enough Senate Republicans vote with the Democrats to produce a veto-proof majority?

Time to Deal, Democrats

The president himself appears to be standing firm and no-one in Washington, at this point, has a good read on how much longer the partial shutdown will continue. House Democrats have already twice rejected GOP bills that would have paid furloughed government workers, so while the opposition party will spin Thursday’s vote tallies as encouraging, it will not be able to emerge from this fight completely unscathed.

The focus may now turn back to the House of Representatives, where the Democratic majority will have to propose a solution that will tempt enough Senate Republicans. More importantly, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to concede something in order to get Senate leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on a new bill coming out of the House.

Both parties are playing to their bases and neither can afford to capitulate, though both must give something. Since Republicans – including President Trump – have already signaled their willingness to provide legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action (DACA) program and for aliens with Temporary Protected Status, the Democrats cannot credibly argue that the other side is unwilling to deal. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are now going to have to prove that, as leaders of their party, they have more to offer than mere Trump Derangement Syndrome.

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