President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’s leaving the solution to the shutdown in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“If they come to a reasonable agreement I would support it,” the president said. But, Trump said, “I have other alternatives.”
Trump spoke from the White House shortly after the Senate failed to pass two bills, one from Republicans and the other from Democrats, that would have reopened the government. McConnell and Schumer met behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon regarding a three-week continuing resolution that would give lawmakers time to hash out a compromise on border security, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the Senate floor.
In a statement about the meeting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that “the 3 week CR would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall.”
Though both bills were expected to fail on Thursday, there was a feeling among lawmakers that the efforts represented an opening for compromise. It marked the first votes the Senate has taken to reopen the government since the shutdown began on Dec. 22.
The Democratic measure, which would have reopened federal agencies until Feb. 8 but provided no funding for a border wall, was defeated in a 52-44 vote on Thursday. The Republican spending measure, which was proposed by President Donald Trump and included $5.7 billion for his border wall in exchange for temporary protections for so-called Dreamers brought illegally to the country as children, also fell short of the 60-vote threshold required for passage, 50-47.
Six Republican senators — Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Mitt Romney of Utah — joined Democrats in favor of their proposal to break the 34-day shutdown stalemate.
After both proposals failed, Graham took to the Senate floor to declare that he “just spoke to the president” and told him that 16 senators are discussing passing a three-week continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government in order to give them time to hash out a compromise on border security.
Graham said the president indicated some things he would want in order to support a stopgap spending measure, but he would not declare what those concessions are. He added that McConnell and Schumer discussed Trump’s pitch.
The 16 senators — nine Republicans and seven Democrats — are expected to stay in town through the weekend and hammer out a proposal that they hope can get at least 60 votes.
Meanwhile, House Democrats are expected to unveil a funding counter-offer to Trump and congressional Republicans on Friday that would “meet or exceed” $5.7 billion for border security, but provide no money for a physical wall, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters.
Thompson told reporters that the Democrats’ proposal will offer “no new structures. The only thing we’re talking about is existing structures. Some of them need repairing.”
The money could be used for “technology, manpower, fortifying ports of entry along with the judges and other things,” he added.