Senate Adjourns, Ensures Government Shutdown on Monday

McConnell offers some concessions, but no deal yet

Dreamers protest outside of the Capitol calling for passage of the Dream Act as Congress works to find a way to end the government shutdown on Sunday evening, Jan. 21, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Dreamers protest outside of the Capitol calling for passage of the Dream Act as Congress works to find a way to end the government shutdown on Sunday evening, Jan. 21, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 21, 2018 at 10:07pm

The federal government will be shut down on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back until noon Monday what was an expected 1 a.m. vote on trying to break a filibuster of a short-term spending package.

The Kentucky Republican had previously sounded unequivocal about holding the vote no later than 1 a.m., which might indicate some actual progress in discussions with the Democratic minority.

McConnell announced a commitment to take up legislation related to the legal status of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants, or DACA, program as well as border security after the expiry of the next stopgap spending bill (assuming there’s not another shutdown).  He said he had hoped to win over enough support to move ahead on the bill to reopen the government Sunday evening.

“It would be my intention to resolve these issues as quickly as possible so that we can move on to other business that’s important to our country,” the majority leader said. “However, should these issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on Feb.8, 2018 — assuming that the government remains open — it would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security and related issues.”

McConnell added supplemental funding for disaster relief, as well as increased defense spending, to his list of priorities.

He praised the efforts of Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine for their roles in bipartisan negotiations. But when it was time to go to the floor, he faced an objection from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York.

Schumer said he would continue to talk to McConnell, but the two leaders apparently decided further discussions Sunday evening would not yield a successful vote after midnight.

As McConnell entered the Senate chamber, he was greeted by a rather unexpected visitor. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina could be seen speaking briefly with McConnell though the tone of their conversation was not clear.

House Republicans like Meadows have been stressing that no immigration-related agreement between McConnell and other senators to pass the continuing resolution and children’s health insurance combination will prove binding on the other body.

Before McConnell came to the floor, Flake outlined the emerging proposal as a commitment from the leader that immigration language — with the support of 60 senators needed to overcome filibuster threats — could reach the floor, whether offered by supporters of the DREAM Act or those pushing for changes to migration policies or advocating construction of a wall at the border with Mexico.

After the Senate adjourned Sunday, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said making sure that the $18 billion the administration wants to beef up physical security at the border with Mexico is actually guaranteed to be funded.

While he dismissed the idea that the concern was specifically about a Democratic majority perhaps winning control of the House in November, Short did express concern about the history of promised authorized funds not being appropriated.

“We don’t want to be playing games. We want to find a way to make sure that physical barrier is built,” Short told reporters at the Capitol. “As you’ve heard the president say, ‘I’m not asking for 2,500 miles. I’m not asking [to build] a concrete wall. I’ve accepted CBP saying that in many cases a porous wall is what’s better for security.’”

Faced with a question about how unusual it would be for Congress to send the White House a multi-year appropriation for such a project, Short replied, “then let’s give us a one-year, $18 billion appropriation and we’ll find a way to make that work.”

Flake and Graham had both voted with the bulk of Senate Democrats on Friday night to block the House-passed stopgap spending measure that would have averted a shutdown in the first place, citing concerns including those about the way forward for legal status for the current benefactors of the DACA program, which President Donald Trump has pledged to end in early March.

A group of young people who would be affected by the Trump administration action and their supporters rallied Sunday night, just across Capitol’s East Front from the Senate’s carriage entrance.

“I’m hopeful my Democrat colleagues will find a way to reopen the government so we can find a solution on immigration, defense spending, and many other important issues,” Graham tweeted Sunday night. “I’m convinced that to continue the government shutdown — after this proposal — does more harm than good to our effort to find common ground.”

The floor action came shortly after Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn emerged from McConnell’s office seeming more upbeat about the chances for a bipartisan agreement to short-circuit the shutdown.

“We continue to meet and talk and hope springs eternal. … I’m more optimistic than I have been,” the Texas Republican said.

Watch: McConnell, Durbin Make Their Case As Shutdown Looms