A splintered Senate swatted down competing Democratic and Republican plans for ending the 34-day partial government shutdown on Thursday, leaving President Donald Trump and Congress with no obvious formula for halting the longest-ever closure of federal agencies and the damage it is inflicting around the country. In an embarrassment to Trump that could weaken his position whenever negotiations get serious, the Democratic proposal got two more votes than the GOP plan, the AP reports. There were six Republican defectors, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who's clashed periodically with the president. There were faint signs that lawmakers on both sides were looking for ways to resolve their vitriolic stalemate. But Thursday was mostly a day for both parties, in conflicting ways, to show sympathy for unpaid federal workers while yielding no ground in their fight over Trump's demand to build a border wall with Mexico.
The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he's demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he'd long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell nine shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed. Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. Flustered lawmakers said the results could be a reality check that would prod the start of talks, and there were suggestions of movement: GOP senators urged VP Mike Pence Thursday to "find a way forward"; House Democrats are working on a border security package widely seen as a counteroffer to Trump; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who for weeks has refused a Senate vote on anything Trump wouldn't sign, changed his stance on that by allowing Thursday's vote on the Democratic plan. (Meanwhile, the Commerce chief is getting hammered for his comments about the shutdown.)