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Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 @ 6:05 PM
As the U.S. Senate prepared to cast votes for the first time on Thursday to end the partial government shutdown which began before Christmas, the two parties remained defiantly at odds in Congress over how best to resolve the impasse over the President's call to fund a wall along the Mexican border, as lawmakers predicted the two plans being voted on in the Senate would both fail to get the necessary 60 votes to advance.
"Open up the government, and then let's talk," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, summing up the main hurdle between the two parties after almost five weeks, as Democrats won't negotiate until the government is fully funded, while Republicans refuse to fund shuttered agencies until they get a deal on border security.
"It's just pure politics," said brand new Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who accused Democratic leaders of being in favor of doing nothing on border security.
Meanwhile, back home, the stories were piling up of federal workers who were in financial difficulty, along with businesses who were feeling the pinch of the shutdown.
The first vote the Senate will take Thursday is on a bill which would fund all operations of the federal government, and include the immigration changes proposed on Saturday by President Donald Trump.
"I think the President's plan is a reasonable one," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). "And that's why I plan to support it."
"You don't have to agree on everything in it - but he did put something new on the table," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), as Republicans decried another round of votes in the House on plans from Democrats to fund the government.
"It's one more pointless exercise," Cole said - the House will vote Thursday on one more plan to fund the government, this time through February 28; that will make 10 funding bills sent to the Senate.
"Ten times now the House of Representatives has done our job and voted, without preconditions, to end the shutdown and reopen the government," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).
The latest vote came as hundreds of federal workers who have been furloughed from their jobs rallied in Senate office buildings on Wednesday, as they homemade signs written on paper plates.
"Feed my family," read one. "ENOUGH," said another. "Do your job," was one more.
The one wildcard on Thursday is on the second vote which Senators will take, on a Democratic plan which combines money for disaster aid with funding for the government through February 8 - some Democrats hoped that a number of GOP Senators would vote for that plan, possibly seeing it as a way to end the deadlock, and pay federal employees who haven't seen a check since late December.
"We always hold out hope," said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), as the House and Senate seemed ready to go home on Thursday afternoon without any resolution to the border funding impasse, likely sending it into a sixth week, by far the longest shutdown ever for the federal government.
If that does happen, 800,000 federal workers would miss a second paycheck on Friday, as the Senate is not expected to get 60 votes for either of the two plans being voted on Thursday afternoon.