Lawmakers in Congress on Sunday failed to reach a deal on plan to fund the federal government, meaning the work week will being with furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the nation, but there was a hint of progress as a Senate vote on a temporary funding measure was delayed until noon on Monday, with Republican leaders offering a plan which would guarantee a Senate debate on immigration matters in February, in hopes that Democrats would then help to fund the government in the meantime.
“Let’s step back from the brink,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor late on Sunday evening, as he urged Democrats to allow the government to re-open, and continue negotiations on a host of issues, including immigration.
“The shutdown should stop today,” McConnell added.
McConnell outlined a plan to fund operations of the government through February 8, and said that if by that date no agreement had been reached on how to deal with DACA and illegal immigrant “Dreamers” in the United States, then he would agree to bring the issue up on the Senate floor for debate and votes.
That outline immediately won the support of two Republicans who have been trying to broker a deal on the DACA/Dreamer issue.
“The Senate should act like the Senate,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who endorsed the idea of regular order on the Senate floor on immigration.
“This is more than a reasonable proposal by the Majority Leader,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who spent much of the last three days shuttling between McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, and a host of Senators in both parties, in search of common ground.
“It would be my intention to resolve these issues as soon as possible, so we can move on to other issues important to our country,” McConnell added, rattling off subjects like the budget for the military, disaster relief for hurricane and wildfire victims, and other major items.
“There are substantive immigration conversations happening,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
Some Democratic activists were immediately skeptical, noting that there was no agreement to ensure that something on DACA and Dreamers gets through the Senate, or even to the President’s desk.
Sunday night on the floor of the Senate, Democrats were not ready to accept, as Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer objected to McConnell’s attempt to hold a vote Sunday night on the plan for a temporary budget that would last until February 8, which is just 18 days away – though Schumer did allow that to be set on Monday.
Senate observers saw that as a positive, as neither McConnell nor Schumer engaged in any scorched earth exchanges, unlike earlier in the day. To some who prowl the halls of the Capitol, that may mean a deal is in the works.
Originally, the Senate was to have voted at 1 am on Monday morning, but that vote was delayed until noon, as Republicans hope Democrats will re-think their opposition, and allow a funding measure to go through the Congress.