Republican Senator Freaks Out On McConnell During Private Lunch

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The longest partial federal government shutdown in history remained ongoing when Friday dawned, and according to reports, frustration over the more than month-long standstill is finally reaching Republican Senators. During a private caucus lunch this past Thursday, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson apparently confronted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to his face, exclaiming:

‘This is your fault!’

McConnell blurted out in return:

‘Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?’

McConnell reportedly expressed his own frustration with the ongoing dilemma, asserting that the shutdown “was not his idea and was not working,” pointing to a saying that “there is no education in the second kick of a mule.” Although McConnell aides declined to comment, Johnson spokesperson Ben Voelkel actually confirmed that the Wisconsin Republican’s testy exchange with the Senate Majority Leader took place, chalking it up to being fed up with the circular direction of proceedings to end the shutdown.

Until this past Thursday — a short time after the lunch in question — McConnell had refused to bring any spending packages to a full floor vote in the Senate without assurances the president would actually sign one. He’d insisted that responsibility for dealing with the shutdown rested with the president and Democrats, and stayed mostly absent from the negotiating process.

Meanwhile, the Democrat-majority House had passed numerous spending packages — all, however, without wall funding. President Donald Trump had refused to approve any further funding without over $5 billion for a border wall he’s long sought to block off Mexico and supposedly put an end to supposedly desperately dangerous undocumented immigration.

The Senate voted on two spending packages this past Thursday, including one that provided for the wall and one that did not. The vote tallies mostly corresponded to party lines, with the notable exception of half a dozen Republicans who supported the spending package without wall funding, which would have reopened the government through February 8. That spending plan finished with more support than the wall package.

New Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney was among those to vote for both packages, and he sought to explain those votes during the lunch when McConnell and Johnson clashed. According to a couple people with knowledge of the event, Romney and North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis had a “lively” exchange after the latter tried to cut Romney off, but they weren’t particularly “angry,” according to The Washington Post.

The same can not be said for over 800,000 government employees who remained in limbo for over a month thanks to the shutdown and the people who rely on the services they provide. The head of the Coast Guard has denounced his agency’s members having to rely on services like food banks to get by as “unacceptable.” Affected agencies outside the Coast Guard range from the Transportation Department to the Department of Agriculture.

Despite the wide-ranging frustrations, Trump for weeks on end showed no sign of giving up his political positions. CNN even obtained a draft declaration of national emergency and plans to use $7 billion to construct a wall without Congressional approval, despite the fact that there remains no crisis at the southern border let alone one justifying the crisis of hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans.

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