As the U.S. government shutdown dragged on through a second day, leaders in Washington appeared to have made only minor progress toward a deal to reopen the government.
President Donald Trump upped the stakes on Sunday morning, urging Republicans to end the legislative filibuster, or take the “nuclear option,” to pass a long-term budget if the “stalemate continues.”
The move, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes, would allow the GOP to move forward with legislation without Democratic votes by passing legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Both the House and Senate were set to reconvene Sunday afternoon.
Talks continued on Capitol Hill after a month-long spending plan passed by the House failed in the Senate, triggering a shutdown that started at midnight Saturday. Lawmakers stayed in Washington for the weekend, aiming to break the funding impasse and move toward striking a deal on immigration legislation and reauthorizing a popular children’s health insurance program.
Among Congressional Republicans and the White House, momentum built for another temporary plan that would extend funding to Feb. 8 instead of Feb. 16, as proposed in the House bill.
On Sunday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News that his chamber would back such a measure. “We will see sometime today” whether the Senate has the votes for it, “and that’s really where we are right now,” Ryan said.
McConnell announced Saturday evening that he will aim to hold a vote to advance the Feb. 8 extension early Monday unless Democrats agree to move it up. The Kentucky Republican tried to advance the measure on Saturday, but Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., blocked the move.
“So I want to assure the American people we’ll be right back at this tomorrow,” McConnell said Saturday on the Senate floor. “Say again to the American people: we’ll be right back at this tomorrow and for as long as it takes.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., championed the proposal, arguing it could get bipartisan support and give ample time to resolve differences on long-term spending levels, immigration and health care. Democratic leaders had sought a spending bill for only a few days, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., introduced a four-day funding measure Saturday that will likely gain little traction with Republicans.
Earlier Saturday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi flatly rejected a Feb. 8 deal, arguing that “there’s no point” in a stopgap extension if lawmakers cannot agree on long-term priorities. Asked by MSNBC on Saturday if he would back the Feb. 8 extension, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was noncommittal.
The stalemate had both major parties slinging blame on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, when he had been set to attend a big-money fundraiser at his private golf club in Florida. Trump started the day by sardonically thanking Senate Democrats for a “nice present” a year after he took office.
A group of at least a dozen bipartisan, moderate senators met throughout the afternoon Saturday, trying to forge a path forward, according to NBC News. The lawmakers appeared to make minimal progress, with Democrats divided on whether to accept a short-term bill with assurances — or hold out for a longer-term agreement.
Meanwhile, McConnell and Schumer did not speak throughout the day Saturday, according to NBC News. Graham and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., were reportedly shuffling between the leaders’ offices.
McConnell on Saturday pushed for senators to “end this foolishness” and cut a deal.
“I invite all my colleagues across the aisle to join together and do what is obviously responsible and right for the people we represent,” he said. “Let’s reopen the government and then resume the bipartisan discussions on funding our troops, on [immigration], on government spending, and on all the other priorities that all of us can work together to resolve.”