The Senate on Thursday failed to pass either of two competing plans to end the government shutdown, now heading for a 35th day.
"White House officials aren’t sure of their next move," Politico reported. "But they do know one thing: they’re losing, and they want to cut a deal."
President Trump said that he is open to a plan being discussed in the Senate to reopen the government for three weeks, but he insisted he would need a "down payment" on his border wall to accept such an agreement. The comments represented a shift from his earlier stance that Congress would have to provide $5.7 billion in border wall funding in order to end the shutdown.
The Republican plan voted on in the Senate Thursday, endorsed by the president, failed to pass by a 50-47 margin. The Democratic proposal fell eight votes shy of the 60 needed, with six Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor of the measure to make the final tally 52-44. The six Republicans were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Even before the votes were done, many analysts had suggested that they could at least lead to some momentum toward ending the shutdown. “In effect, the defeat of both measures would demonstrate in the most concrete manner yet that what both sides have been pushing for is not possible in the Senate, and that some new compromise must be forged to pass the chamber,” The Washington Post reported before the votes took place.
Vox’s Dylan Scott wrote that GOP leaders were taking what some Republican lobbyists call it a “show them a body” strategy, demonstrating to voters and dug-in lawmakers that their preferred approach is dead (while still allowing them to say they tried), thereby opening up other options to break the impasse. “Failed votes aren’t exactly productive legislating, but they are still useful for Senate leadership because they give the appearance of work being done and force a reset once a legislative path is blocked,” Scott wrote.
After the failed votes, Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell met. Bloomberg reported that Schumer “emerged with a smile on his face, saying only, ‘We're talking. We're talking.’”
The leading option reportedly being discussed is a three-week stopgap spending measure to reopen the closed portions of the government. But White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly said that such an agreement “would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall,” and Trump repeated that message in his comments to reporters.
Still, Bloomberg described the developments with more than a bit of optimism: “In the most significant development to date, President Donald Trump appears to be softening his position on keeping the government closed until he gets his wall on the southern border.”