Trump calls for change to Senate rule as shutdown enters the second day

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Sunday if the government shutdown stalemate continued, Republicans should fund the government by changing Senate rules, which currently require a super-majority for legislation to advance, but top Republicans immediately dismissed the idea. Funding for federal agencies ran out on Saturday with Trump and Republican lawmakers locked in a standoff with Democrats. As the shutdown entered its second day, there appeared to be no clear path for a quick end to the crisis.
“The Dems (Democrats) just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51 per cent (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget,” Trump said on Twitter.
Trump’s proposal was almost immediately rejected by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Republicans oppose changing the chamber’s rules so that legislation to fund the government and end the current shutdown could pass with a simple majority, the spokesman said.
“The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.
Current Senate rules require a super-majority of three-fifths of the chamber, usually 60 out of 100, for legislation to clear procedural hurdles and pass.
The Senate will vote at 1 am EST (0600 GMT) on Monday on a bill to fund the government through February 8, unless Democrats agreed to hold it sooner, McConnell said on Saturday.
Democrats say short-term spending legislation must include protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as “Dreamers.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of being an unreliable negotiating partner, saying the two sides came close to an agreement several times only to have Trump back out at the urging of anti-immigration conservatives.
Schumer “put a lot on the table” in negotiations on Friday, which Trump accepted then “walked it back,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on the “Fox News Sunday” programme.
Republicans, who have a slim 51-49 Senate majority, said they would not negotiate on immigration until the government was reopened.
With elections set in November for a third of US Senate seats and the entire House of Representatives, both sides are manoeuvring to blame the other for the shutdown.
After money for federal agencies ran out at midnight on Friday, many US government employees were told to stay home or, in some cases, work without pay until new funding is approved. The shutdown is the first since a 16-day closure in October 2013.
Speaking to US troops at a military facility in the Middle East, Vice-President Mike Pence said the administration will not reopen talks with Democratic lawmakers on “illegal immigration” until the shutdown ended.
“We’re not going to reopen negotiations on illegal immigration until they reopen the government and give you, our soldiers and your families, the benefits and wages you’ve earned,” Pence said. — Reuters

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