This Thursday, the Senate finally came to the negotiating table in the ongoing effort to reopen the federal government. Two funding packages came up for a vote, one without and one with the over $5 billion President Donald Trump wants for a border wall, and both failed — but not before a curiously large segment of the Republican caucus could make how sick they are of this stalemate known. Half a dozen GOP Senators voted to reopen the government without wall funding, bringing the total in support of that measure to 52 — short of the 60 votes it needed to pass.
Still, ironically enough considering how resolute Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been in opposing funding measures the president won’t sign, the spending package without a wall finished better than the one that provided for it, which didn’t even score a simple majority of the full Senate. Only 50 Senators voted in support of that measure, and 47 voted against it.
The Republicans who jumped ship from that push and backed the separate proposal to reopen the government through February 8 without wall funding include Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), and Mitt Romney (Utah).
Alexander explained himself as simply tired of the political showmanship that’s put over 800,000 federal workers indefinitely out of the job, and he and the others who temporarily jumped ship actually all voted for both spending packages that came up for a vote Thursday.
He was blunt in his assessment of the situation:
‘It is always wrong for either side to use shutting down the government as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations — it should be as off-limits as chemical weapons are to warfare.’
Democratic leaders have denounced Trump’s demands for over $5 billion for a border wall that his fantasy criminals can just go around as a “non-starter” for budget negotiations.
Still, Alexander has at least one apparent high profile supporter on the left. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced legislation he called the Stop STUPIDITY Act, which stands for an effort to stop “Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years.” If passed, the measure would automatically renew funding for all parts of government except the legislative branch and president’s office at the same level as the previous year if lawmakers ended up at an impasse like they’re at now.
Currently, around one-fourth of the federal government is closed, and affected agencies range from the Department of Agriculture to the Transportation Department. Everything from food stamps to air traffic control is on the rocks.
Democrats have produced numerous spending packages at this point to keep parts of the government going and to provide for the workers alongside the people who rely on their services — but every time, Republicans have refused to get on board en masse.
Trump has claimed without any apparent evidence that temporarily unemployed workers support his push for a wall and claimed outlandishly enough that he “can relate” to their plight — although he’s also said he’s willing to have the government remain shutdown for months.
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