The financial impact of the partial government shutdown hits home even harder on Friday, as 800,000 federal employees won’t be paid for the second time this month, as Democrats in Congress and President Donald Trump remained at odds over funding for one-quarter of the federal government, with Democrats flatly saying they would not support money for the President’s border wall.
“We have to have security, we have to have a wall in order to have border security,” President Trump said after his border wall plan ran aground in the U.S. Senate, as lawmakers deadlocked over two different plans to end the funding impasse.
“And if we don’t strengthen those borders, we’re going to have a big problem in the future,” the President added.
But Mr. Trump’s familiar arguments – and the pressure of the almost five-week old shutdown – did not divide Democrats in the Senate as Republicans had hoped, as only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted for the President’s immigration plan.
Meanwhile, a half dozen GOP Senators broke ranks and backed a Democratic package which would fund the government through February 8, to pay federal workers, re-open shuttered agencies, and allow more time for border funding negotiations.
“We need to take our armor off, leave our weapons at the door, walk in and shake hands,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), one of the six to vote for the Democratic funding plan, as he appealed for both sides to find a deal to re-open the government.
Earlier, Isakson and other GOP Senators had reportedly vented their frustration about the shutdown in a closed door meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, as GOP Senators tried to keep the heat on Democrats, but found that Republicans were the ones seemingly under more public pressure.
Along with Isakson, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine broke ranks on the GOP side.
“This shutdown – the longest in our history – must come to an end,” Collins said soon after Thursday’s votes, which were the first this year, after Senate Republicans had refused for weeks to act on bills related to the shutdown, hoping Democrats would fold under public pressure.
But that plan did not work, as Democrats kept up a drumbeat of stories about federal workers being harmed by the shutdown all over the country, as all but a handful refused to give in to the President’s demands on the border wall.
“Federal workers are struggling to put food on the table and pay their mortgages because of the President’s reckless shutdown,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
“What the GOP is doing to the American people is disgraceful,” said Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA), who chanted on the House floor, “Pay these workers now!”
House Democrats were reportedly ready to offer over $5 billion in border security funding on Friday – but signaled clearly that none of the money would go for a border wall.
“The President and the Republicans either do not notice or do not care about the real effects of this shutdown on real people,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as Democrats denounced Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s comments, in which he seemed puzzled that furloughed workers would be seeking food assistance.
It wasn’t clear late on Thursday night whether negotiations would produce a settlement, as many expected the shutdown to move into an unprecedented sixth week.