The federal government appeared to be headed toward a partial shutdown late Friday after most Senate Democrats and a few Republicans voted to block a bill that would have authorized funding for another four weeks.
Authorization for federal spending expires at midnight, but after a day of last-ditch negotiations, there was no deal between Republicans and Democrats on how to proceed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called up the bill that would have funded the government through through Feb. 16 shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, but most Democrats voted against it. Democrats are holding out for a deal to protect the so-called "Dreamers" from deportation, one that hasn't materialized yet.
At around 1:30 a.m., McConnell announced the Senate was done for the night and would reconvene at noon on Sunday. The majority leader had called for unanimous consent for cloture on a three-week continuing resolution, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., objected.
McConnell did not say specifically when lawmakers would vote on a bill to keep the government open through Feb. 8, but said it would happen “at some point” and said Feb. 8 is “a reasonable period of time” to work out a deal. A vote on the measure could come later in the weekend.
Republicans as of late Friday blamed Democrats for preventing the funding lapse by seeking a favorable deal for the Dreamers, which the GOP pointed out is a completely unrelated issue.
“I think if this vote goes down, that’s kind of hard to see,” Marc Short, who lobbies for the president on Capitol Hill, told reporters when asked what the next steps would be after the measure fails.
Republicans needed to find 60 votes to end debate on the House bill, but the final vote was 50-49, well short of that goal. One of the "no" votes was McConnell, who voted against it because procedurally, it lets him call it up again. A final passage vote would have only required a simple majority.
Five Senate Democrats crossed party lines and voted in favor of the bill: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
But they were almost canceled out by the four Republicans who voted against it: Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Despite the apparent Friday night failure, the Trump administration and others noted that the full impact of the shutdown wouldn't be felt until Monday, and Senate Republican leaders have signaled they will keep lawmakers in all weekend to find some way forward.
But Democrats said late Friday they wouldn’t support any funding deal unless Republicans agree to their terms on the Dreamers, who arrived here illegally as children. Democrats want the provision to protect Dreamers included in this spending bill, not a later measure.
“What could make me change to a yes?” asked Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. “Some credible evidence of progress in negotiations. In the absence of hearing from Republican leadership that they are serious about including immigration in the things we are making progress on, it’s hard to believe they are serious.”
Republicans say the deal on Dreamers needs more time and there is no imminent deadline to solve the issue. A program protecting them from deportation expires March 5.
A bipartisan group of senators has been meeting with Trump administration officials for days trying to hammer out an accord but has not reached one.
Democrats are now using the spending bill to ramp up their leverage to perhaps secure a deal on Dreamers that does not include many of the significant border security provisions Republicans want in exchange.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., late Friday proposed a bill to fund the government for three weeks, rather than four.
Al Weaver contributed to this report.