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Senate To Vote Monday On Ending Shutdown As Talks Continue

Capitol Hill is seen against a blue sky Saturday, the first day of the partial government shutdown.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP/Getty Images
Capitol Hill is seen against a blue sky Saturday, the first day of the partial government shutdown.

Updated at 10:01 p.m. ET

The Senate will vote at noon on Monday to end the government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor Sunday evening and laid out a plan to restore government funding for three weeks and consider immigration proposals, while bipartisan talks continue to end the impasse that has triggered a partial government shutdown since Friday night.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer objected to a vote on Sunday evening, but not the plan to vote on Monday.

"I am happy to continue my discussion with the majority leader about reopening the government," Schumer said. "We've had several conversations. Talks will continue, but we have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward that would be acceptable to both sides."

A vote was originally scheduled for 1 a.m. ET, but instead the Senate adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday morning.

McConnell said that, if the impasse ends, "It would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security, and related issues."

A bipartisan group of roughly 20 senators said earlier they were nearing an agreement to pass a spending bill to reopen the government in exchange for plans to begin work on immigration legislation.

The group emerged from a closed door meeting Sunday prepared to brief leaders on the outlines of a plan that would allow both sides to back down from their increasingly entrenched positions and vote to reopen the government. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the agreement would require the Senate to quickly begin debate a wide range of immigration proposals with hopes of passing a bill in the coming weeks.

"There was a larger conversation about having the Senate actually function again," Coons said. "And how important it would be to have a full, wide open debate on the different proposals that Democrats and Republicans have on how to deal with border security and how to deal with DACA."

Another negotiator in the room, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., predicted that "there will be a breakthrough tonight."

The positive tone was a distinct departure from the hostile rhetoric elsewhere in the Senate earlier on Sunday.

The number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, said in a floor speech that Democrats had "shot themselves in the foot, reloaded, and shot themselves in the other foot."

Democrats accused Republicans of pitting "innocent kids against innocent kids," as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said Sunday. Republicans have offered a six year funding extension of the popular Children's Health Insurance Program as part of their funding proposal. CHIP expired last fall. But Democrats also want action on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted legal status to people who were brought to the country illegally as children.

Several of the negotiators at the Sunday afternoon meeting said they believed their plan would demonstrate to leaders that there is a path forward. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the plan was to help leadership, not circumvent them.

"We are trying to be helpful in showing them there is a path forward," Collins said. "A substantial of Senators from both parties are eager to find that path."

Such an agreement would allow both sides to vote to reopen the government without backing down from their demands.

Republicans have continued to reiterate that they will not negotiate on immigration and DACA while the government is shut down. And Democrats say a spending deal would also have to protect the immigrants who have been shielded from deportation by the DACA program.

"What we're facing right now is Democrats taking an absolutely implausible position that says we're going to deny funding to two million troops who are serving our country, tens of thousands of border patrol agents trying to protect our country, over an issue that's not even in this bill," said Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, on Sunday's This Week as well. "That is an impossible position on which to negotiate."

President Trump began his day Sunday by suggesting the Senate should get rid of the requirement the 60 vote threshold for advancing legislation.

"Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked," Trump tweeted before 8 a.m. on Sunday. "If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.'s!"

Trump was acknowledging the fact that a government spending bill would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, which would require at least nine Democrats to vote in favor of it. Republicans could theoretically vote to changeits rules to require just a simple 51-vote majority to pass a spending bill, as they did to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long voiced opposition to such an option.

"That would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our founding fathers," said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on ABC's This Weekon Sunday . "We have to acknowledge a respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and its procedure."

In the midst of the stalemate, President Trump's re-election campaign released an ad declaring that "Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants," a stance that did little to improve the negotiating climate. Short defended the ad on Sunday, saying "the reality is that there are safety concerns for our country."

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, however, looked surprised after being shown the ad by John Dickerson on CBS' Face The Nationand said "I don't know if that's necessarily productive, but it's no secret the president has strong views on immigration."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused the president of essentially acting in bad faith after the two met one-on-one at the White House on Friday.

"What's even more frustrating than President Trump's intransigence is the way he seems amenable to these compromises before completely switching positions and backing off. Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O," Schumer said Saturday.

Some congressional Republicans have been open to negotiating on just a DACA solution, while others, like President Trump, want it tied to increased border security efforts, like building a wall on the southern border.

"We want to move from a system based on family relations to one based on skills and merit for what the economy needs — perfectly common sense," said House Speaker Ryan on Sunday. "Here's the issue, if we simply did DACA without incumbent reforms then we'd have a DACA problem five years down the road. We want to fix the problem and the root cause of the problem."

Democrats say Schumer offered border security compromises in his meeting on Friday with the President, including potential funding for the wall, which Trump seemed initially receptive to. The White House then called just hours later, Democrats say, to kill the negotiations.

Remaining in D.C. because of the shutdown, Trump has had no public appearances or interviews although the White House said he had spoken with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Tex. and was consulting with Cabinet members about the impact of the shutdown on government agencies.

In the House, Republicans approved a procedural measure that will allow GOP leaders to speedily bring a new stopgap measure to the floor if a new spending agreement is reached.

NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis contributed to this story.

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Brett Neely is an editor with NPR's Washington Desk, where he works closely with NPR Member station reporters on political coverage and edits stories about election security and voting rights.
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