WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday blocked duelling plans to reopen shuttered federal agencies, a fresh setback in efforts to end a month-long government shutdown, but President Donald Trump signalled he could back a new proposal if it includes border security.
The legislative deadlock left Congress and the president red-faced and adrift as thousands of federal workers, some reliant on food banks to make ends meet, are about to miss a second paycheck.
But shortly after the votes, a possible way out of the deepening crisis began to take shape, when Senate leaders huddled in private to discuss a proposal to fund lapsed federal agencies for three weeks, to allow for negotiations over border security.
Asked if he would support the plan, discussed in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, Trump was non-committal, saying he would still want funding for his wall.
“If they come to a reasonable agreement, I would support it,” he said, but added: “We have to have a wall in this country.”
Trump had backed a Senate measure which would have reopened the government, funded the wall and included some immigration policy changes. It earned 50 votes to 47 against, but it needed 60 to advance.
A competing proposal by Senate Democrats that would open government through Feb 8 without funding Trump s wall, and leave room for border security negotiations, also failed to move forward by a similar tally.
Trump was already smarting, after being forced into shelving his annual State of the Union address by top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, until the government is fully operational.
Though politically bruised, Trump stood firm on his demand for billions of dollars in funding for a border wall as part of an overall budget package.
“Very simply, without a Wall it all doesn t work,” he tweeted at Pelosi on Thursday before the Senate votes.
The shutdown is now in its 34th day, with federal workers left unpaid across the country and in US installations abroad – and the knock-on effects affecting millions more.