Patience is beginning to wear thin among Senate Republicans for a prolonged government shutdown, with a growing number at risk of revolting if the fight over funding President Donald Trump’s border wall drags out indefinitely.
In interviews with a wide range of Senate Republicans, a number have grown anxious about the long-term impact of a partial shutdown that has shuttered a quarter of the federal government and impacted hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors, including many in their states who will soon miss their first paychecks. And some GOP senators are signaling a new willingness to allow a number of key federal agencies — such as the Treasury Department, the Transportation Department and the National Park Service — to reopen even if the fight over the border wall is not resolved, breaking with the White House and Senate GOP leaders.
“I think we can walk and chew gum,” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said on Tuesday, adding she’s “amenable to a process that would allow for those appropriations bills that have concluded some time ago that they be enacted into law — whether it’s the Department of Interior or the IRS. I’d like to see that.”
In a warning sign for the White House, a number of Senate Republicans offered tepid support for the hard-line stance taken by Trump, who is backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While many Republicans said they’d continue to support McConnell and Trump for now, it was clear that support won’t last indefinitely.
“There’s a time when that may run out,” Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson said of support for McConnell’s refusal to back spending bills that lack Trump’s support. “But right now that doesn’t run out.”
House Democrats last week passed six full-year spending bills to reopen federal agencies impacted by the shutdown as well as a stopgap bill for the Department of Homeland Security, and they have put pressure on congressional Republicans and the administration to take up the measures despite an ongoing dispute between Democrats and the President over funding for a border wall. This week, they plan to pass individual spending bills to reopen several key agencies, including the Interior Department and Housing and Urban Development.
Trump, however, flatly opposes reopening other agencies without securing his demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding — a position backed by House and Senate GOP leaders.
But West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who chairs a key subcommittee overseeing homeland security funding, said she “can live” with a continuing resolution to reopen the Department of Homeland Security while other agencies also are reopened. Doing so would punt the funding fight over the wall until a later time.