US Senate leader urges shutdown brinksmanship end by Monday

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — US President Donald Trump's top Senate Republican urged lawmakers Sunday to "step back from the brink" and fund the government, before a two-day shutdown extends into Monday and becomes far worse.

Kicking off a second weekend Senate session of crisis management, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Democrats to admit they miscalculated about forcing a lapse in federal funding, and vote to pass a temporary spending bill before the work week begins.

"This shutdown is gonna get a lot worse tomorrow -- a lot worse. Today would be a good day to end it," McConnell told colleagues.

"This shutdown was a political miscalculation of gargantuan proportions, but it doesn't need to go on any longer. It could stop today," he added.

"So let's step back from the brink, let's stop victimizing the American people, and get back to work on their behalf."

Lawmakers failed to reach a deal by Saturday -- the first anniversary of Trump's inauguration -- that would have kept government lights on.

Democrats refused to accept a stopgap measure to fund the government through February 16, because it did not address the status of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants threatened with deportation.

Republicans insist that funding government and immigration are unrelated.

The Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, blasted his rivals for failing to lead despite controlling both the White House and both chambers of Congress.

"Under this unified control, it was the Republicans' job to govern," Schumer told the Senate.

"It was their job to reach out to us and come up with a compromise. They have failed."

He also blamed the president, who he said refused the Democrats' offer to fund Trump's border wall in exchange for protections for the so-called Dreamers who faced deportation.

"It all really stems from the president, whose inability to clinch a deal has created the Trump shutdown," Schumer said.

With the two sides frozen in standoff, the Senate will hold a vote at 1:00 am (0600 GMT) Monday on a new, three-week spending bill.

Senate Democrat Dick Durbin expressed optimism that despite intense recent feuding, both sides could quickly strike a deal to end the shutdown.

"We can do it together," Durbin said.

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