U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday that lawmakers should move to reopen most of the federal government as a standoff over a proposed border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border threatens to prolong the partial government shutdown.
“I would like to see [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] bring the House-passed bills to the Senate floor. We could reopen much of the government where there’s no dispute,” Collins told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “Let’s get those [departments] reopened while negotiations continue.”
“The Senate will not waste its time considering a Democratic bill which cannot pass this chamber and which the president will not sign,” McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
When asked about McConnell’s refusal to bring House bills to reopen the government to the Senate floor, Collins expressed frustration over the stalemate between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders that threatens to drag out the shutdown well into its third week.
“Unless Chuck Schumer and Speaker Pelosi agree and the president agrees to sign a bill, we can pass bills but they won’t become law,” Collins said.
A first round of talks between White House and congressional aides on Saturday ended with no resolution to the 15-day-old shutdown, with both sides accusing the other of not giving any ground, according to the Associated Press. Trump on Sunday held out little hope that another round of talks would bring both parties closer to an agreement. Trump is insisting on $5.6 billion for a wall along the southern border, while Democrats have said they won’t support funding for a wall.
The partial shutdown is tied for the third longest on record, according to USA Today. The longest government shutdown was a 21-day clash between President Bill Clinton and Republicans that stretched from December 1995 to January 1996.
Already, some Republicans are looking for openings to bring the showdown to an end. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, on Thursday called for an end to the shutdown, even without a deal for a border wall, while U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, in an opinion piece in The Hill on Friday called for a compromise on border wall funding that gives a pathway to citizenship for young adults brought to the U.S. illegally as children, also known as “Dreamers.”
Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Sunday also offered a compromise deal on the “Dreamers” as a path out of the present stalemate.
Previous attempts to pass legislation pairing border security funding with a pathway for citizenship for “Dreamers,” though, have failed to secure passage in the Senate. One bill — the Immigration Security and Opportunity Act — pushed for by Collins would have paired $25 billion for border security and a path to citizenship for “Dreamers,” but it failed to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate in February 2018. A majority of Senate Democrats voted for that bill, but not enough Republicans supported the bill for it to pass.
Collins has said that funding to reopen the government shouldn’t be held “ hostage” over the border wall, but added Sunday that lawmakers need to look at options to reduce the flow of illegal drugs and human traffickers across the southern border, including more Border Patrol agents and technology, not just a physical barrier.
“I’ve always thought that the debate over what the physical barrier should be constructed of is rather bizarre. We do need to strengthen our border security … But we need to look at more than a physical barrier,” Collins said Sunday.