WASHINGTON — A bipartisan working group of senators have formed to try to hash out the details of a solution to what has now become the longest government shutdown in US history.
But even as the small group of Senate Republicans and Democrats begin putting their heads together, they have to contend with the fact that whatever product they produce must have a guarantee from President Donald Trump that he would sign it, in addition to appeasing an equally stubborn House led by the newly powerful Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The bipartisan group held discussions on Monday and its members include what Texas Sen. John Cornyn described as the “usual suspects” who emerge during tense times to find a solution, including Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Joe Manchin.
Cornyn noted that some kind of clean funding bill without border security funding like Democrats have passed in the House is entirely off the table in the Senate, which Trump has so far refused to support. So in order for the bipartisan gang to find a solution, it is going to have to include significant border security funding, with physical barriers as a key component.
“This isn’t going to be decided unless and until everybody comes up with some good faith negotiations where nobody gets everything they want and nobody ends up empty handed,” Cornyn said. “But again, until they come up with something the president will sign it’s kind of an unfortunate, futile effort.”
Cornyn, who recently relinquished his role as Senate Majority Whip, placed blame on Democrats for being stubborn in negotiations by refusing to budge on border-security funding.
“This isn’t really about solving a problem. This is about point scoring,” he said. “And at some point Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer take whatever they think they’ve got and settle it.”
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who is a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters in the Capitol Monday that “clearly structures are a part of” any deal that needs to be reached, but that it is just one component.
“I think again the big problem is people are simplifying this and just saying this is about the wall,” he said. “But if you take a look, even in the $25 billion in the February proposals last year, a significant amount had nothing to do with a physical structure. So I’m very mindful of the words mattering to some of the members.”
Tillis, like most Republicans, lamented Pelosi’s hard line that she will not authorize funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border, comparing it to Trump’s stubbornness.
“I think the same could be said for how could you advance these talks if [Pelosi] refuses to talk about funding border security,” he said. “Somebody’s got to move and we’re trying to help that.”