Senators were shuttling in and out of offices Saturday, but there were no breakthroughs in the effort to reopen the federal government.
When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the floor late Saturday to announce plans to have the chamber back in session starting Sunday afternoon, he made clear that, at his first opportunity, he would try to hold a vote to break a filibuster of a proposal to fund the government through Feb. 8.
“I asked for consent to move up a vote on this bipartisan solution and end this craziness today. The Democrats objected. That won’t work forever. If they continue to object, we cannot proceed to a cloture vote until 1 a.m. on Monday,” the Kentucky Republican said. “But I assure you, we will have the vote at 1 a.m. on Monday, unless there is a desire to have it sooner.”
The Senate will formally reconvene at 1 p.m. Sunday.
McConnell made his remarks in a mostly empty chamber, on a day when there was little to see aside from a steady stream of floor speeches, with each side blaming the other (or President Donald Trump) for the current funding lapse.
Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth was among those with particular criticism for the president, who has highlighted the adverse effects of shutdowns on the military.
“I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger,” Duckworth said. “I have a message for Cadet Bone Spurs: if you cared about our military, you’d stop baiting Kim Jong Un into a war that could put 85,000 American troops — and millions of innocent civilians — in danger. You’d stop hiding behind your Twitter account, stop blaming everyone else. You would tell your party — a party that controls the House, Senate and the White House — to do their job.”
The Senate was generally devoid of the parliamentary fireworks on display in the House, which even led to a roll call vote about whether an image of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, along with a quotation, should appear on a floor chart on the chamber floor.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham has been pitching combining the three-week continuing resolution with side deals that provide assurances about floor consideration of immigration measures, including one that offers a path to citizenship for young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children, known as Dreamers.
On Saturday, Graham seemed to be everywhere, coming in and out of meetings in leadership offices and elsewhere.
At one point, a bipartisan group of about 20 moderates began talking to try to work out a solution. After huddling in the office of Maine Republican Susan Collins, senators leaving the meeting were tight-lipped, saying only that the discussions had been productive.
“My hope is that this bipartisan group will go back to the leaders of both parties and try to find a way to move forward,” Graham told reporters. “I think we all look pretty stupid.”
Graham said he was hoping Trump could “find a way to re-engage” with congressional leaders, but he added, “I don’t expect him to talk to anybody while the government’s shut down.”
Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said as much Saturday.
“If we’re making progress, why are we shutting down the government? Why are we shutting it down? We were making progress, and we’re anxious to resume those conversations, but we’re not going to be held hostage and let our troops be held hostage over this,” Short told reporters at the White House. “When they reopen the government, we will continue the discussions.”
While conversations continued behind the scenes, Democrats and Republicans took turns making a series of unanimous consent requests trying to inoculate themselves from blame for failure to pass a continuing resolution, and with it the accompanying multiyear extension of Children’s Health Insurance Program funding.
All were blocked, and senators were making plans for being in session at 1 a.m. on Monday, the day many federal workers may report for work only to be sent home if the shutdown continues.
Ryan McCrimmon contributed to this report.