Washington : Two bills to end the US government have been rejected by the Senate, leaving no end in sight to the record-breaking closure of federal agencies over President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to build a border wall along the US-Mexico border.
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Trump is demanding USD 5.7 billion of congressional funding to build the wall, but the Democrats have refused. Some 800,000 federal employees have been going unpaid since December 22 due to the shutdown.
In back-to-back votes on Thursday, the Senate first blocked Trump’s proposal to add USD 5.7 billion for his border wall to legislation to resume funding for the government, then turned back a Democratic measure that omitted the wall. Neither side was able to garner the 60 votes needed to advance its bill.
A Republican-backed measure to fund Trump’s border wall failed in a 50-47 vote.
Three senators Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republicans Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Lee of Utah broke with their parties.
A plan supported by Democrats fared better, but still fell short in a 52-44 vote. Six Republican senators supported it.
Senate leaders from both parties later briefly discussed a new proposal to reopen federal agencies for three weeks.
Trump was noncommittal, telling reporters at the White House that he would only sign a bill if it included a “down payment” on a border barrier.
“One of the ideas suggested is they open it, they pay sort of a pro-rated down payment for the wall, which I think people would agree that you need the wall,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that any resolution would work if there is a “large down payment” on the wall.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s request was not reasonable.
Later Trump said that he has a lot of alternatives.
“We have a lot of alternatives. Honestly, everybody, for the most part, people agree. When I say everybody, I would say almost everybody agree, we have to have border security. We have to have a wall in order to have border security. You cannot have border security without a wall,” he said.
The failure to advance the bills left Washington with no obvious path out of the longest shutdown in US history.
Neither the president nor Democratic leaders have shown any willingness to back down even in the 34th day of the partial shutdown.
Thousands of government employees have scrambled to pay for meals and cover their bills. The shutdown has affected various services from airports to FBI investigations and food safety inspections.
CNN, meanwhile said the White House was preparing a draft proclamation for Trump to declare a national emergency along the southern border and has identified more than USD 7 billion in potential funds for his signature border wall should he go that route.
Trump has not ruled out using his authority to declare a national emergency and direct the Defense Department to construct a border wall as Congress and the White House fight over a deal to end the government shutdown. But while Trump’s advisers remain divided on the issue, the White House has been moving forward with alternative plans that would bypass Congress.
Trump’s State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday, has also been postponed until the end of the shutdown following an acrimonious tit-for-tat with Pelosi.