CAPITOL HILL - As President Donald Trump prepared to pressure Democrats on border wall funding with a nationally televised address, Senate Democrats pushed back by launching a blockade of legislation until the Republican-controlled chamber votes on spending bills to reopen shuttered U.S. government agencies.
Democrats on Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill covering security assistance for Israel, U.S.-Jordanian defense cooperation, and efforts to aid and protect Syrian civilians. The legislation needed at least 60 votes in the 100-member chamber, but was rejected 56-44.
The bill has ample bipartisan support, but Democrats refused to allow it to advance while a partial federal shutdown grinds on for a third week and hundreds of thousands of government workers remain idled.
“The first order of business in this United States Senate should be to reopen the federal government,” Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said. “Every day that goes by in this Senate without a vote [on spending bills] makes this Senate more and more complicit in the shutdown.”
“[W]e shouldn’t be voting on anything in the Senate BUT [ending] the shutdown,” Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar tweeted.
Last week, the Democratically-led House of Representatives approved bills to fund government agencies that saw their spending authority expire in December.
With rare exception, Senate rules mandate three-fifths backing to advance any bill that fails to garner unanimous support. Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the chamber, well short of 60 votes that would be required to advance legislation on their own.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has repeatedly stated that he will not bring to the floor any funding bill that Trump opposes.
“Democrats will have to get serious about border security so that a government funding agreement can pass the House, earn 60 votes in the Senate, and receive a presidential signature. All three of these things are needed,” McConnell tweeted last week.
Trump is demanding billions of taxpayer dollars for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. The House-passed spending bills would extend overall border security operations but set aside no money for a wall.
Republicans swiftly decried Democrats’ attempts to pressure the Senate.
“I don’t believe that shutting down the Senate and not allowing us to move forward on something as important as Syria policy is the way to resolve a shutdown issue,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said. “You don’t solve a shutdown with a shutdown.”