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Senate shutdown talks hastened after airline disruption

Trump announces deal that would open shuttered government agencies and negotiate DHS funding

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor after Senate rejected two attempts from Republicans and Democrats to reopen government on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor after Senate rejected two attempts from Republicans and Democrats to reopen government on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Discussions between Senate leaders of both parties on how to end the 35-day government shutdown picked up with renewed urgency Friday as the record-setting government shutdown began halting flights scheduled to land at LaGuardia Airport — in Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s home state of New York.

President Donald Trump announced Friday afternoon that a deal had been reached that would fund shuttered government agencies for three weeks while providing time to negotiate funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

No votes are currently scheduled but senators are milling around the Capitol in anticipation of something happening.

“There might be votes today,” said Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., referring to a potential short-term deal to reopen the government.

Watch: McConnell says GOP plan only way to reopen government, Schumer says ‘Bull’

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Sen. Tim Kaine, R-Va., said there was talk of a short-term stopgap on the floor later on Friday. “There could potentially be [unanimous consent] votes or something short term or something later in the day, so it’s still all up in the air,” he said.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said would be open to supporting a so-called clean continuing resolution to reopen the government but wants to wait to hear what Trump has to say first.

The Federal Aviation Administration lifted the so-called ground stop at LaGuardia by early afternoon, but flight delays were still expected as the agency was experiencing “a slight increase in sick leave” by air traffic controllers at facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., and Leesburg, Va.

The ongoing shutdown has closed nine Cabinet departments since Dec. 22 with the exception of services considered critical to protection of human life and property, including air traffic controllers and airport security screeners. Workers performing those “excepted” tasks, totaling more than 400,000, have missed two paychecks, as have a roughly equal number of federal employees who have been furloughed for the past 35 days.

Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., renewed discussions about a path forward to ending the partial shutdown on Thursday night, after two partisan proposals could not get over the 60-vote threshold to advance to final passage. “McConnell and I have had good conversations and we’re trying to get everyone involved to work something out,” Schumer said Friday morning.

Meanwhile House Democrats postponed their expected Friday morning rollout of a border security package intended to represent an alternative to President Donald Trump’s $5.7 billion wall funding demand, perhaps in anticipation of a deal emerging out of the Senate.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also a senior appropriator and Trump ally, has been trying to convince the president to accept a three-week stopgap to reopen government while talks continue. He said Trump ought to sign a clean stopgap and then potentially declare a national emergency at the border to tap unobligated funds at the Pentagon and elsewhere for wall-building.

“Let’s see if we can get a deal, but if not the president will have to use his emergency powers. But I think if we could get everybody in the room then this thing will come together, at least I hope it would,” Graham said as he was heading to McConnell’s office Friday. “Here’s what Leader McConnell is going to do: he’s going to let the White House figure out what move they want to make.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report

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