Three Republicans have officially broken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), giving Democrats enough votes to reopen the government.
However, as majority leader, Sen. McConnell still has the final decision on whether or not the bill comes up for a vote.
On the 35th day of the longest government shutdown in history, federal workers are on the verge of missing their second consecutive paycheck. This has led to three Republican senators opting to side with Democrats over Mitch McConnell — Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — to reopen government agencies and allow furloughed workers to go back to their jobs.
While they’re voting for the Democrats’ plan, those three Republicans are also voting for President Trump’s proposal to spend $5.7 billion on building a wall along the Southern border. However, assuming the Republicans in question and all Democrats vote for the Democratic proposal, that would be 51 votes — a slim enough majority to pass out of the chamber.
The likelihood of either bill passing the initial 60-vote procedural hurdle (also known as cloture) to make it to the floor for an up-or-down majority vote is unlikely, though. According to NBC News, there aren’t enough Republicans breaking with Mitch McConnell and President Trump to move the bill past cloture. And no Democrats — not even Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who voted for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation — are committing to vote for Trump’s wall.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) disputed the characterization that there were two equal sides to the bills that would end the shutdown.
“To say: ‘Well, one is a Democratic amendment, one’s a Republican amendment’ doesn’t get the magnitude of this,” Sen. Schumer said. “Because one is holding 800,000 workers hostage, millions of Americans hostage, unless the amendment authors get their way. The second says: We’re not demanding anything. Just open up the government and then let’s discuss it.”
The length of the shutdown has already prompted concern from some government workers that Americans’ safety may be at risk. The union representing federal air traffic controllers warned of an “unprecedented” safety risk to those choosing to fly during the shutdown. The FBI warned that the shutdown was interrupting investigations and posing a risk to national security. Even the U.S. Secret Service is saying the financial hardship agents are suffering due to the shutdown hurts morale.
“If you’ve got guys thinking about how they’re going to make their house payment, I can just tell you, you’re not doing your job right,” an agent anonymously told CNN last week. “Your head is not in the right place — this is affecting people.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.