Republican Senators Cory Gardner (CO) and Susan Collins (ME) have announced they would support reopening the federal government without President Donald Trump's desired $5 billion funding for his proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” Gardner said, adding that Congress "can pass legislation that has the appropriations number in it [$1.6 billion] while we continue to get more but we should continue to do our jobs and get the government open."
Collins herself announced she is co-sponsoring a bill that would help protect government workers during shutdowns. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act would guarantee that furloughed federal employees will be paid retroactively and that employees will be paid as soon as possible once a shutdown ends.
Response to these calls has been mixed. Both Gardner and Collins are up for re-election. Last year, many promised to oppose Collins in particular after she voted to confirm Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite the allegations of sexual assault brought against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a former high school classmate.
The shutdown is the fourth longest in U.S. history, and there is no end in sight, despite assurances from Democrats that they will pass funding bills as soon as they take office. The inauguration of the 116th Congress today marks the first time ever that a federal shutdown will extend into two different Congresses.
The president’s insistence on blaming Democrats for the shutdown contradicts his own statements. In December, he preemptively accepted ownership of a then-possible shutdown.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,” he told Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office on December 11.
After meeting with Trump and other Congressional leaders privately, Senator Schumer said the president threatened to keep the government closed for “months or even years” until he gets his desired border wall funding ($5 billion). Trump later confirmed this at a press briefing in the Rose Garden after the meeting.
Nancy Pelosi, who yesterday reclaimed her position as Speaker despite internal opposition within her own party, described a “lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation with the president.”
“We cannot resolve this until we open up government,” Pelosi said.
The president had a different take, however.
“I thought it was really a very, very good meeting. We’re all on the same path,” he said.
But the president confirmed to reporters that he did, in fact, say he would keep the shutdown going if necessary.
"Absolutely I said that," Trump said during an appearance from the Rose Garden. "I don't think it will, but I'm prepared."
Two individuals familiar with the meeting said Trump mentioned extending the standoff "to the election."
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the president will “designate his top people” to negotiate with Congress and end the shutdown.
“The news is that the president agreed to designate his top people to sit down with all the leaders’ staffs this weekend to see if we could come up with an agreement to recommend back to us — both to him and to the various leaders,” McConnell told reporters.