Washington: The U.S. Senate was short of the votes needed to approve a bill to keep the federal government running as a midnight deadline loomed on Friday night, although high-level negotiations continued.
In a dramatic late-night session, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell left voting open despite appearing to fall well short of the 60 votes needed to keep alive a stopgap bill that would fund the government through Feb. 16.
As the clock ticked toward midnight, McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer huddled in negotiations in a room just off the Senate floor.
Without some type of funding bill, the U.S. government technically will run out of money right after midnight, on the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. That would leave scores of federal agencies across the country unable to continue operating, and hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” federal workers would be put on temporary unpaid leave.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a stopgap funding measure on Thursday. But Republicans then needed the support of at least 10 Democrats to pass the bill in the Senate.
Democratic leaders demanded that the measure include protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” who arrived in the United States as children with their parents. Republicans refused and neither side has been willing to back down.
Trump last week rejected a bipartisan proposal, saying he wanted to include any deal for Dreamers in a bigger legislative package that also boosts funding for a border wall and tighter security at the U.S. border with Mexico.
In a shutdown, “essential” employees who deal with public safety and national security would keep working. That includes more than 1.3 million people on active duty in the military who would be required to work and would not be paid until funding is renewed.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney talks with reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria. Although past government shutdowns have done little lasting damage to the U.S. economy, they can rattle financial markets.
In September, Trump announced he was ending the program and giving Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative replacement.