6 Republicans break ranks to vote in favor of failed Democrat-led shutdown bill
The Senate on Thursday failed to pass two competing bills aimed at re-opening the federal government, as day 34 of the shutdown wore on.
The first was a GOP-led bill, pushed by President Donald Trump, that traded three-year protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats pointedly refused to back that bill, with only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting in favor, noting it would have additionally cracked down on Central American asylum seekers and the asylum system as a whole. The bill failed by a vote of 50-47, far from the 60 votes needed to pass.
The second bill, championed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democratic leadership, would have provided backpay for federal employees and funded the government through February 6, allowing the current debate over immigration reform and border wall funding to take place while federal employees are getting paid. Most Republicans rejected the proposal, though a small handful broke ranks to join their colleagues across the aisle.
Joining Democrats were six Republicans, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Susan Collins (R-ME). Not surprisingly, three of the senators who folded — Murkowski, Gardner, and Collins — are under pressure from their constituents to end the shutdown and will potentially face challenging re-elections in 2020.
All three also voted in favor of the Trump-McConnell “compromise” bill. As ThinkProgress previously reported, the Trump-McConnell bill is a would have added a multitude of restrictions and obstacles to the already-suffering U.S. asylum system while also expanding the Trump administration’s deportation machine by allocating more funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
It’s unclear how long the shutdown might continue as both Republicans eager to fund the president’s proposed border wall dig in against Democrats refusing to acquiesce to that demand. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had additionally requested from agency leaders a list of “the highest-impact programs that will be jeopardized” if the stalemate continues into March or April.
Already, nearly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay as a result of the shutdown. Some have turned to food banks, emergency loans, or selling their belongings to make ends meet, while others consider finding work elsewhere or pick up temporary jobs, such as driving for rideshare services.