government shutdown

Republicans Signal They May Be Ready to End the Shutdown

That face when furloughed federal workers are about to miss their second paycheck. Photo: WIN MCNAMEE/Getty Images

On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats entered the Senate with their own dead-on-arrival bills to end the shutdown, hoping that they could serve as fertilizer for more realistic talks. It’s a plan that may be working: As Trump loses momentum entering day 35 of the shutdown, he and Republican lawmakers are showing signs that they may be ready to reopen the government before Friday, when furloughed federal workers miss their second paycheck.

Some of the speculation feels a little like smoke signal reading. Will Saletan, a national correspondent at Slate, notes that a comment from Trump may suggest he’s ready to give on shutdown talks, citing the rare bipartisan pronoun “we” in a statement describing Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell working together on a possible bill. Other hints suggest more concrete evidence, like Lindsey Graham telling reporters shortly before the failed Thursday vote that the “Plan B is a bipartisan bill.” On Wednesday, exiting a meeting with a bipartisan group of 16 senators, Graham believed that if he were able to get a stop-gap three-week spending bill, he was “pretty confident … we would have a bill done in pretty short order in the Senate.” And in a sign that McConnell reportedly considers a blow, six Republican senators signed just such a Democratic bill to temporarily open the government until February 8, although it contained no wall funding.

In addition to their newfound sense of urgency, Republicans also appear to be venting their internal conflicts. At a private luncheon on Thursday, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin snapped at Mitch McConnell, reportedly saying that “This is your fault,” to which McConnell replied, “Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?” During the lunch, McConnell reportedly told Vice President Pence that the shutdown was not working, and pulled out a favorite Southernism: “There is no education in the second kick of a mule.”

At the meeting, Pence reportedly urged Republican senators not to sign onto Democrats’ temporary funding bill that does not include wall money. But according to Politico, the president is now considering the three-week deal: like McConnell, he reportedly views the defection of the six Republican senators as a major blow, one that compounds his all-time high disapproval rating of 57 percent. Trump also reportedly views the national emergency option as a “last resort,” suggesting he may be ready for a less constitutionally fraught exit strategy.

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Republicans Signal They May Be Ready to End the Shutdown