Government Shutdown Enters Day Thirty-Five With Some Signs Of New Action In Washington

As the shutdown enters day thirty-five, there are some signs of movement in Washington but no real progress.

As we make our way through day thirty-five of the government shutdown, the not expected failure yesterday afternoon of two proposals to end the shutdown to pass the Senate seems to have at least spurred some action on Capitol Hill, although it’s unclear if it will lead to anything productive:

WASHINGTON — A pair of measures to reopen the government — one with President Trump’s border wall, the other without it — failed in the Senate on Thursday, sending lawmakers from both parties into frenzied efforts to forge a compromise that could end the nearly six-week partial shutdown.

In back-to-back votes, the Senate first blocked Mr. Trump’s proposal to add $5.7 billion for his border wall to legislation to resume funding for the government, then turned back a Democratic measure that omitted the wall. Neither side was able to garner the 60 votes needed to advance its bill.

But the results undercut the president by revealing that his proposal drew less support in the Republican-controlled Senate than did the Democrats’ plan, which attracted a half-dozen Republicans willing to break with Mr. Trump. And with the shutdown reaching a grim milestone on Friday as 800,000 federal workers miss a second consecutive paycheck, pressure is mounting in both parties to find a solution.

In a lunch meeting before the votes, Republican senators vented their concern to Vice President Mike Pence about the prolonged shutdown, according to two people familiar with the discussion, which grew tense at times. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who has previously counseled against allowing government funding to lapse, was among those arguing that it should never have occurred, they said.

Almost as soon as the roll calls were finished in the packed Senate chamber, a round of telephone calls and conversations began among Mr. Trump, Republican and Democratic congressional leaders and other senators who have been quietly searching for weeks for a bipartisan compromise to end the gridlock.

“Don’t give up hope, because now is the time that we all must come together to address these issues,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the six Republicans who voted for the Democratic measure. “But you can’t do it when the government is shut down.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, announced on the Senate floor that he had spoken with the president, who had said he would be open to a three-week stopgap measure to reopen the government and provide time for a broader border security deal, as long as it included some of his priorities.

“It gets us back in the ballgame,” Mr. Graham said, as a group of 16 senators — eight from each party — rose in turn to endorse the idea of the three-week spending measure.

But hanging over those talks was continued uncertainty about the president’s bottom line for a deal. Mr. Trump spoke positively of talks between Mr. McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, but he said was not dropping his demand for wall funding.

“One of the ideas suggested is they open, they pay some sort of prorated down payment on the wall, which you need,” the president told reporters at the White House. “If they come to a reasonable agreement,” he said of Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schumer, “I would support it, yes.”

He again mentioned “other alternatives” that he could turn to if he did not secure wall funding from Congress, presumably an emergency declaration that could allow him to shift funds from the military or Army Corps of Engineers.

But Democrats were unlikely to agree to that. “Senator Schumer and Senate Democrats have made clear to Leader McConnell and Republicans that they will not support funding for the wall, prorated or otherwise,” said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer. Others emphasized that they shared the president’s goal of adding security measures at the border, as long as he would first agree to end the shutdown, and House Democrats were circulating proposals for a “smart wall,” with drones, sensors and some additional fencing, but no edifice from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.

“What we have put on the table is our reputation as legislators, that given three weeks, we’ll come up with a successful conclusion on the border security issue,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland.

Urgency is rising in both parties to reopen the government, even if that means making concessions their leaders might not have considered a few weeks ago. House Democrats, prodded on by rank-and-file lawmakers from conservative districts who are eager to promote their own border security ideas, are poised as early as Friday to outline more than $5 billion in measures they support, a far larger sum than they initially entertained.

“We’re not that far apart,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, imploring members of his own party and Democrats to “stop talking past each other.”

In what may be a sign of progress, Politico reports that Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Schumer are talking among themselves, are their staffs, in an effort to try to find some agreement that could pass the Senate and the House and be signed into law by the President, The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports that the length of the ongoing shutdown seems to be fraying relationships among Senate Republicans:

Republican senators clashed with one another and confronted Vice President Pence inside a private luncheon on Thursday, as anger hit a boiling point over the longest government shutdown in history.

“This is your fault,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at one point, according to two Republicans who attended the lunch and witnessed the exchange.

“Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?” McConnell snapped back, according to the people who attended the lunch.

Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel confirmed the confrontation. He said Johnson was expressing frustration with the day’s proceedings — votes on dueling plans to reopen the government, both of which failed to advance.

The people who attended the lunch spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a closed-door session. Aides to McConnell, citing regular policy on GOP lunches, declined to comment on the gathering.

The argument was one of several heated moments in a lunch that came just before the Senate voted on the opposing plans to end the shutdown offered by President Trump and Democrats.

The outbursts highlighted the toll the shutdown has taken on Republican lawmakers, who are dealing with growing concerns from constituents and blame from Democrats, all while facing pressure from conservatives to stand with Trump in his demand for money to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The votes the Senate cast on Thursday were the first on the shutdown since it began Dec. 22, with McConnell and other GOP lawmakers previously refusing to vote on anything this year unless it had Trump’s approval — a policy that has drawn widespread criticism.

The day ended with some limited signs of progress. After the votes, McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) engaged in a face-to-face negotiation that senators hoped would lead to a solution in the near future.

The first proposal, which Trump put forward, would have allocated $5.7 billion for wall funding in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants. Only one Democrat voted for it. Two Republicans rejected the plan.

One of the Republicans, Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), also spoke out in the lunch. He explained that if Thursday’s votes were merely a party-line exercise, there should be more changes to the nation’s asylum laws, according to one of the people who attended the lunch. Lee also expressed concerns about getting assurances for votes on his amendments.

Six Republicans broke ranks to vote for the Democratic plan, which would have reopened shuttered government agencies through Feb. 8, without any wall money. Among them was Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who explained in the lunch why he planned to vote for both bills.

Later today, House Democrats are expected to release a new version of their previous proposals that may or may not change the course of negotiations going forward. It will include the provisions to reopen the government for at least a short period of time as well as the allocation of $5.7 billion that would be allocated toward “border security,” although not to the President’s border wall. Ideas similar to this have also been circulating in the Senate, although there is nothing concrete expected any time soon from that side of the Capitol. The White House, meanwhile, said after the failure of the two proposals in the Senate that the idea of a short-term Continuing Resolution would only work if there was what White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to as a “substantial down payment” on the wall, although it’s not clear exactly what amount this means. In any case, at the very least, it appears that the failure of the Senate bills may have spurred some action. Whether it leads to anything remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the shutdown itself continues with little hope of an immediate end in sight. As of today, the Federal workers impacted by the shutdown, including members of the Coast Guard and law enforcement personnel under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, have not been paid for two pay periods now. The reports of Federal workers struggling to pay bills, pay medical expenses, and put food on their family’s table. And, in perhaps the biggest development to date, flights at New York’s LaGuardia Airport are being delayed and grounded due to a shortage of TSA and air traffic control due no doubt to the shutdown and the fact that these people are not getting paid. If this continues much longer, the impact is just going to get worse. Whether that spurs action remains to be seen.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Teve says:

    FAA just shut down incoming flights to laguardia.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    The way this is going to end is for Republicans to override Trump’s veto (of course virtually all Dems will do so). But as long as the Republican Party thinks it is a legitimate tactic to withhold the paychecks of completely innocent people in order to get their way, there is no way out. I hope at least a few of the Trumpers and rank and file Republicans realize just what the Republicans think of the average honest Joe working for a paycheck. Not only don’t they care about you, they will actually inflict misery and economic disaster on you as “leverage”.

  3. Kathy says:

    Several years ago, my dad had troubles with a union trying to recruit his employees. The problem was the employees were already unionized with a different union. Regardless, they took a vote and decided to stick with the union they were in.

    So the rival union declared a strike, blocked the entrance and wouldn’t let us open. There were negotiations, where we impressed upon the rival union’s rep that the employees had rejected his union. his answer was simple “So fire them and get new employees.”

    Well, who wouldn’t join a union that showed this much concern for workers, right?

  4. charon says:

    There have been reports that a bunch of (R) senators were in a pretty angry contentious meeting with Yertle, and publically confirmed by at least one of them. So maybe there is movement.

  5. charon says:

    @Teve: There are delays a several airports, a couple of other big airports are closed to incoming flights.

  6. James Pearce says:

    Looks like a (very) temporary deal is in the works:

    The deal would be a CR for three weeks, which would include the current level of fencing and wall repair money ($1.3 billion for the year.)

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Where the bovine excrement will really hit the spinning whirligig is when nobody gets their tax refunds. Expect a roar of displeasure from everyone across the board.

  8. Moosebreath says:

    per CNN, a deal is in place to reopen without money for the wall:

    “Sources told CNN the White House and congressional negotiators made an agreement to temporarily reopen the federal government while talks continue on a border wall.
    The path included signing a stopgap funding measure that would fund the government through February 15. But sources said it would not include any new funding for Trump’s promised border wall, once an ironclad demand that led to the shuttering of government agencies over the past month.
    Instead, lawmakers would return to negotiations over the money while federal workers return to their jobs.”

    Just like Pearce predicted, except entirely unlike it.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    Where is the part where you admit you were wrong about Pelosi taking Dennison to the cleaners?

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: The goal of a troll is not to be right but to throw discussion off the rails.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    So Trump got nothing. FWIW, although I’m not a huge 7 dimensional chess fan, I think McConnell basically washed his hands of everything when Trump reneged on his word in December. He put it all on Trump, 100%, and let the world see what a stupid, stupid man he is, and what a failure as a negotiator.

    It wasn’t in any way moral on McConnell’s part, letting millions of people suffer in order to prove a point, but then again, Republican.

  12. Kylopod says:


    Just like Pearce predicted, except entirely unlike it.

    I think from now on we should call him Threepio.

  13. James Pearce says:


    Just like Pearce predicted, except entirely unlike it.

    From your cite: “Sources told CNN the White House and congressional negotiators made an agreement to temporarily reopen the federal government while talks continue on a border wall.

    35 days of a shut down and we get to do this all over in 3 weeks.

    (I knew you guys would claim victory. I knew it. It is so vastly more important to be seen as winners than to, you know, win.)

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    I knew it.

    Because you know you were wrong.

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Ann Coulter:

    Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.

  16. Jen says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    My god does that woman ever make me angry. George HW Bush volunteered to fly planes in WWII. There is more strength in that man than there was, or will ever be, in Trump.

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea, we never did, we never proposed that, we never wanted that, because we have barriers at the border where our natural structures are as good as anything we can build.

    The Art of the Cave.

  18. Gustopher says:

    Although it may not lead to a dignified discussion of ideas and policies, I still feel compelled to say this: Suck it Trumpers.

    Ok, now, get over your butt hurt and start realizing that there is another 53% of the country that did not vote for your hero, and that you need to work with this majority if you want to get things done.

    I hope this loss stings enough that we can get through the debt limit without threatening the world economy.

  19. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Because you know you were wrong.

    In three weeks, when the CR runs out, we’ll see who was wrong.

  20. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    In three weeks, when the CR runs out, we’ll see who was wrong.

    It’ll still be you.

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Pelosi, asked how Trump will handle backdown on reopening government without wall money, gestures toward her office decorations: “we could plant these flowers along the border and he’d say, ‘I got my wall.’

  22. James Pearce says:


    It’ll still be you

    Cuz that’s what’s important, right?

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    “we could plant these flowers along the border and he’d say, ‘I got my wall.’

    Hmph. Yeah, I kinda said the same thing –being so wrong and all that. Did she mention how it was worth it to close the gov’t down for 35 days to get a 3 week CR?

  23. James Pearce says:

    Trump when announcing the deal:

    “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government either shutdown on Feb. 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

    Keep on dancing, guys. You did it.

    You won!

  24. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Cuz that’s what’s important, right?

    You tell me. You brought it up.

  25. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    Apparently Pearce thinks a cave is a wall.

  26. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Apparently Pearce thinks a cave is a wall.

    What Twitter wit did you steal that from?

  27. Kathy says:

    Pearce, if you’re using your time machine to jump three weeks into the future in order to win meaningless internet arguments, let me be the first to tell you: you’re using it wrong.

  28. Scott F. says:

    Please don’t feed the house troll.

    He will never concede he was wrong, he will always misrepresent his past positions, there will always be 3 weeks later when he will be surely vindicated by events by his interpretation.

    The government will be reopened without rewarding extortion by shutdown, federal workers will get back pay and return to their important work with extortion by shutdown weakened as a political ploy even in the unlikely event it’s tried again in a few weeks time. The Democrats stood on principle and, as rarely happens, principle won.

    These truths are an unalloyed good for the governance of the US no matter what. The rest is just sound and fury signifying nothing.

  29. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    The government will be reopened without rewarding extortion by shutdown, federal workers will get back pay and return to their important work with extortion by shutdown weakened as a political ploy even in the unlikely event it’s tried again in a few weeks time.

    I think by sentence standards, that was a double marathon 😉

    Sorry. I can’t help myself sometimes (and other times I just don’t want to).

    Anyway, you are making one unwarranted assumption: that El Cheeto can learn from experience.

    As to what happens next, it depends largely on how his base and his owners (ie Coulter et. al.) take this defeat.

  30. Scott F. says:


    Touché. The run on sentence is a weakness of mine.

    Also, I’m not assuming for a second that Trump will learn. I’m assuming GOP Senators will learn. They DO NOT want to find themselves in a shutdown situation again. I think it is obvious that today’s deal was their doing, not Trump’s. McConnell tried to stay above the fray, it did not work and he is too politically cunning to not have a plan to avoid a shutdown in 3 weeks time.

    Best case scenario is they cut a border security deal that will allow Trump to claim Wall when it’s not. Worst case scenario is Trump claims emergency, military funds get redirected and the courts intervene.

  31. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    I don’t doubt McConnell’s savvy. I doubt his courage.

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: And that after hearing an address from Averill Harriman urging that year’s graduating class at Yale to remember that they were to important to the country to risk their lives fighting in the war when others could do it.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: The “tale told by an idiot” part of that soliloquy seems especially appropriate at times like these.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    Did she mention how it was worth it to close the gov’t down for 35 days to get a 3 week CR?

    It’s always worth it not to give in to bullies, hostage takers, terrorists, etc….always…