Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bid Tuesday by two Democratic senators to bring a package of bills passed by the House to reopen the federal government to the Senate floor.
The Hill reported that Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin asked for unanimous consent to offer the legislation for a vote.
One bill funds the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 while six others would fund other departments and agencies affected by the partial government shutdown, including the departments of Transportation, Justice, Commerce, Treasury, Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Any senator can object to bills offered by unanimous consent, which McConnell did on Tuesday.
The majority leader has stated numerous times that he will not bring legislation to the floor for a vote until an agreement has been reached between President Donald Trump and Democrats on border security. He turned down a similar Democratic bid last week, The Hill reported.
“The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues,” McConnell said Tuesday.
The president has requested $5.7 billion to build approximately 230 miles in new border barriers, while Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security, but specified it cannot go for a border wall.
In a Senate floor speech, McConnell cited the role House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing in the shutdown as an obstruction to progress.
“Here in the Senate, my Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make,” McConnell said.
“They could stand with common sense, with border experts, with federal workers and with their own past voting records, by the way, or they could continue to remain passive spectators complaining from the sidelines, as the speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House.”
My Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make. They could stand with common sense, with federal workers and with their own past voting records… or they could continue to complain from the sidelines as the Speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House. pic.twitter.com/7CKu7OlLmJ
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) January 15, 2019
The White House announced that congressional Democrats rejected an offer to attend a lunch with Trump on Tuesday to discuss border security, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Today, the President offered both Democrats and Republicans the chance to meet for lunch at the White House. Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, the Examiner reported.
“The President looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government. It’s time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal.”
In the statement, Sanders said Trump offered a deal that includes “additional technology at ports of entry, allows minors from Central America to seek asylum in their home country, and physical barriers between ports of entry made of steel instead of concrete.”
In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Trump chided Pelosi for not being willing to negotiate tweeting, “Why is Nancy Pelosi getting paid when people who are working are not?”
Why is Nancy Pelosi getting paid when people who are working are not?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2019
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged McConnell to bring the House legislation to the floor, saying he can force Trump’s hand.
“There’s only one person who can help America break through this gridlock: Leader McConnell. For the past month Leader McConnell has been content to hide behind the president, essentially giving him a veto over what comes to the floor of the Senate,” Schumer said.
The minority leader contended the legislation would pass the Senate with a veto-proof majority. A two-thirds vote is required in each chamber of Congress to override a presidential veto. For the Senate, if all the lawmakers were present, that would be 66 senators.
McConnell countered that the House package would not pass the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53 to 47 majority.
McConnell explanation on why he won’t put a bill on floor to open government in attempt to win veto-proof majority https://t.co/nZkwVxf1qB
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 15, 2019
Asked if he would seek a wrangle a veto-proof majority to pass the legislation, according to CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly, McConnell answered, “In a situation like this, where the president, in my view, is in the right place, trying to get the right outcome as all of us have expressed with regard to border security, of course not.”
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