In a high stakes game of legislative chicken, the U.S. Senate on Friday night blocked a House-passed bill to fund operations of the federal government for the next four weeks, as most Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans to filibuster the spending measure, demanding faster action on immigration matters, driving the Congress toward the first federal government shutdown since 2013.
The vote was 50 to 49 – 60 votes were needed.
“It’s irresponsible,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The government may be shutting down, but the Senate is not,” as he vowed to keep voting and pursuing a spending deal.
“This is no way to run a business,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who blamed Republicans for the impasse, labeling it the “Trump Shutdown,” while the White House called it the “Schumer Shutdown.”
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump had met with Schumer at the White House – but while they seemed to make some progress, there was no final deal.
And Mr. Trump made clear who was to blame.
A handful of members from both parties broke with their leaders on the Senate vote, which would have shut off debate on the four week spending measure approved on Thursday by the House.
Mainly because of the impasse over DACA and immigration, several Republicans refused to join with the President, as they voted against the plan.
“I believe no one wants the government to shut down,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I also believe that we are inside the ten yard line on finding solutions on all issues.”
Other Republican “no” votes included Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Democrats voting to end debate included five from states which were won by President Trump: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
For many Democrats, the biggest thing missing from a temporary budget plan was something concrete on the DACA program, to deal with close to 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” now in the United States.
In the various Congressional office buildings, immigration activists and many Dreamers joined in demonstrations for their cause.
But Republicans argued that backers of DACA relief were not interested in doing enough to stop people from coming illegally in the future.
“We want to be able to resolve this, but it has to be resolved with border security attached to it,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
“There’s a deal here that could be struck very quickly,” argued Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
But signs of a late agreement did not seem to be there for Senators as the clock ticked toward midnight, a reminder that many hours had been spent in recent months on the issue, so far – to no avail.
“Democrats have created a false deadline by trying to tie illegal immigration to government funding,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
As I’ve consistently said, these are two totally different issues and should be dealt with separately.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how Congressional leaders would try to broker a deal, but it was obvious there would be a lot of finger pointing.
President Trump stayed at the White House Friday night instead of flying as scheduled to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida. His Saturday schedule does not include a trip there for a party to mark his first year in office.