As Spending Bill Creeps Through Senate, Shutdown Threat Remains

WASHINGTON (CN) – More than four hours after the Senate convened to vote on advancing a House-approved funding bill to save the government from shutdown, Vice President Mike Pence broke a 47-47 tie to move the bill forward late Friday.

President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for H.R. 2, the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the White House complex, on Dec. 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After the tie-breaker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the floor and said the advancement would “maintain maximum flexibility” for discussions between the Senate Democrats and White House.

The threat of a partial shutdown of the government remains high, however, as no agreement has been reached yet.

While the House’s bill would fund the government through the beginning of February and gives additional money for President Donald Trump’s border wall, unified opposition from Democrats as well as defections from Republicans made it clear the House proposal stood no chance of passing.

In statement on the Senate floor Friday morning, Schumer called the day’s events “a pointless exercise.”

“President Trump, you will not get your wall. Abandon your shutdown strategy,” Schumer said. “You’re not getting the wall today, next week, or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”

Even some in the Senate GOP criticized the day’s eventual delays, with Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona – a frequent Trump critic – among the staunchest dissidents. “I don’t see any reason to proceed to a bill that can’t pass,” Flake said. “I’d rather find that out sooner rather than later and find a bill that can pass.”

For others, it was the failure to compromise that drew frustration.

“The shutdown should never be a part of a budget negotiation,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said. “A government shutdown should be thought of the same way you think of chemical warfare in real warfare. It should never even be considered. It’s an admission of failure by negotiators. We were sent here to make the government operate for the taxpayers, not to shut it down.”

While a short-term spending bill that did not include money for the wall passed the Senate earlier in the week, pushback from conservative pundits chilled any chances Trump would sign the measure.

The president forced home his new-found convictions against the Senate bill Thursday over Twitter.

“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries – but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”

Senator Mike Rounds, R-S.D., was among the lawmakers taken by surprise by Trump’s about-face.

“I think he had thought that he would be able to accept it, but once he saw the reception from the base, I think it strengthened his resolve to try to move forward and unfortunately that puts us in this position that we’ve got right now,” Rounds said Friday.

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