Senate sets procedural vote for noon on a short-term measure to reopen federal government

Talks will resume Monday after a bipartisan effort to reopen the federal government before the start of the workweek failed to bring about an agreement late Sunday, leaving agencies shuttered for a third day with negotiations set to continue.

With hours to go before federal workers had to decide whether to head to the office, Senate leaders were considering the framework of an agreement to open the government for three weeks in exchange for assurances the chamber would take up immigration legislation in that time.

Despite signs that lawmakers were making progress in those talks, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told colleagues gathered on the floor Sunday night that “we have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward.”

Talks are expected to resume Monday, with a Senate vote scheduled for noon Eastern Time, but most federal offices, many national parks and other federal facilities will be closed.

The late-night machinations during a rare Sunday session of Congress meant that roughly 2 million federal employees — including about 300,000 in Maryland — would either face furloughs or would work without pay. Though the shutdown began Saturday morning, its impact was minimal over the weekend.

There was a palpable, bipartisan sense throughout the day Sunday that the framework represented the best opportunity to quickly resolve the shutdown, which began after most Democrats — and four Republicans — opposed a House-passed measure Friday to keep the government open for another month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a procedural vote on a short-term funding measure for noon Monday, giving both sides more time to find an agreement. That bill would keep the government running through early February.

“When the Democrat filibuster of the government funding bill ends, the serious, bipartisan negotiations that have been going on for months now to resolve our unfinished business — military spending, disaster relief, healthcare, immigration and border security — will continue,” McConnell said. “It would be my intention to resolve these issues as quickly as possible so that we can move on to other business that is important to our country.”

McConnell also hinted at the talks underway, saying he would move to immigration by the time the short-term funding bill runs out Feb. 8.

It was not clear whether the framework, developed by about 20 centrist lawmakers from both parties, had support from President Donald J. Trump.

Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, are unable to advance funding legislation in the Senate without support from some Democrats. In exchange for their votes, some Democrats want Republicans to find a legislative fix for Dreamers, immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

Honoring a campaign pledge, Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that permitted 700,000 Dreamers to remain in the country. Roughly 8,000 people are protected from deportation and allowed to work in Maryland under that initiative.

Congressional leaders spent much of the second day of the shutdown — the first since 2013 — ratcheting up the rhetoric of blame.

Republicans said Democrats were playing politics by rejecting the House-passed funding that was similar to those they had supported in the past. Democrats said Trump was an unreliable negotiator, and that the White House was not working to break the impasse.

“Only President Trump can end it,” Schumer said on the floor earlier Sunday. “We Democrats are at the table, ready to negotiate. The president needs to pull up a chair and end this shutdown.”

Trump kept a low profile for a second day, making no public appearances. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president spoke with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Just before McConnell and Schumer spoke on the floor, Cornyn told reporters he was more optimistic than he was earlier in the day that a deal could be reached.

Republicans framed the shutdown differently, arguing that Democrats were holding government funding hostage over their desire to make progress on immigration. Democrats continued to market the partial government shutdown as the “Trump shutdown” while Republicans called it the “Schumer shutdown.”

“The Democratic leader could end this today. We can get past this manufactured crises,” McConnell had said Sunday afternoon. “This shutdown is going to get a lot worse tomorrow — a lot worse.”

Despite the rhetoric, there were signs of a potential path out of the morass, as both sides could be bruised by the shutdown heading into the midterm elections.

While the Trump administration did not endorse the framework that emerged Sunday, Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, appeared to strike a conciliatory tone early in the day.

“We’re making significant progress and we will get a deal,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

White House officials said the administration would work to limit the impact of a shutdown this week — a move that would also give Trump an upper hand in negotiations.

The administration has repeatedly said national parks would remain open, though visitors were turned away at Fort McHenry in Baltimore and at some other national sites across the country. A spokesman for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport said there has been no impact on TSA screening or immigration.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said President Barack Obama had “weaponized” the shutdown in 2013 — when the impact was more acutely felt at airports and parks — and that “most Americans won’t see a difference” this time.

“Over the course of the next couple of days, we’ll see agencies work to try to keep more agencies open,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The effect won’t be as visible as in 2013.”

While that may be possible in the short term, agencies will eventually run out of temporary funding that could be used to lessen the impact.

The effort to mitigate the impact for the public was also cold comfort for federal employees, many of whom would continue to work without pay or endure furloughs. Maryland officials have previously estimated the state loses about $5 million a day in revenue when the federal government closes its doors.

In the past — including after the 2013 shutdown — federal employees ultimately received retroactive pay.

Some of the largest federal agencies in Maryland, including the Woodlawn-based Social Security Administration and the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, did not respond to questions Sunday about what they were advising employees for the start of the week.

Several Maryland lawmakers — including Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, and Rep. John Delaney, a Montgomery County Democrat — joined other members of Congress in agreeing to donate their salaries during the shutdown. Harris, who is staunchly opposed to abortion, said he would donate his salary to pregnancy centers that counsel women against the procedure.

Delaney said he would donate his salary to Mercy Health Clinic, a Gaithersburg facility for low-income patients.

"I don't think it's right for me to get paid during a government shutdown while my constituents are being furloughed and important and necessary services are being limited or halted all together," Delaney said in a statement. "It's time to be responsible and come together on a bipartisan deal to fund the government."

Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz contributed to this article.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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