WASHINGTON — A pair of measures to reopen the government — one with President Trump’s border wall, the other without it — failed in the Senate on Thursday, sending lawmakers from both parties into frenzied efforts to forge a compromise that could end the nearly six-week partial shutdown.
In back-to-back votes, the Senate first blocked Mr. Trump’s proposal to add $5.7 billion for his border wall to legislation to resume funding for the government, then turned back a Democratic measure that omitted the wall. Neither side was able to garner the 60 votes needed to advance its bill.
But the results undercut the president by revealing that his proposal drew less support in the Republican-controlled Senate than did the Democrats’ plan, which attracted a half-dozen Republicans willing to break with Mr. Trump. And with the shutdown reaching a grim milestone on Friday as 800,000 federal workers miss a second consecutive paycheck, pressure is mounting in both parties to find a solution.
In a lunch meeting before the votes, Republican senators vented their concern to Vice President Mike Pence about the prolonged shutdown, according to two people familiar with the discussion, which grew tense at times. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who has previously counseled against allowing government funding to lapse, was among those arguing that it should never have occurred, they said.
Almost as soon as the roll calls were finished in the packed Senate chamber, a round of telephone calls and conversations began among Mr. Trump, Republican and Democratic congressional leaders and other senators who have been quietly searching for weeks for a bipartisan compromise to end the gridlock.
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“Don’t give up hope, because now is the time that we all must come together to address these issues,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the six Republicans who voted for the Democratic measure. “But you can’t do it when the government is shut down.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, announced on the Senate floor that he had spoken with the president, who had said he would be open to a three-week stopgap measure to reopen the government and provide time for a broader border security deal, as long as it included some of his priorities.
“It gets us back in the ballgame,” Mr. Graham said, as a group of 16 senators — eight from each party — rose in turn to endorse the idea of the three-week spending measure.
But hanging over those talks was continued uncertainty about the president’s bottom line for a deal. Mr. Trump spoke positively of talks between Mr. McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, but he said was not dropping his demand for wall funding.
“One of the ideas suggested is they open, they pay some sort of prorated down payment on the wall, which you need,” the president told reporters at the White House. “If they come to a reasonable agreement,” he said of Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schumer, “I would support it, yes.”
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, arrived Thursday at the Capitol.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times
He again mentioned “other alternatives” that he could turn to if he did not secure wall funding from Congress, presumably an emergency declaration that could allow him to shift funds from the military or Army Corps of Engineers.
But Democrats were unlikely to agree to that. “Senator Schumer and Senate Democrats have made clear to Leader McConnell and Republicans that they will not support funding for the wall, prorated or otherwise,” said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer. Others emphasized that they shared the president’s goal of adding security measures at the border, as long as he would first agree to end the shutdown, and House Democrats were circulating proposals for a “smart wall,” with drones, sensors and some additional fencing, but no edifice from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.
“What we have put on the table is our reputation as legislators, that given three weeks, we’ll come up with a successful conclusion on the border security issue,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland.
Urgency is rising in both parties to reopen the government, even if that means making concessions their leaders might not have considered a few weeks ago. House Democrats, prodded on by rank-and-file lawmakers from conservative districts who are eager to promote their own border security ideas, are poised as early as Friday to outline more than $5 billion in measures they support, a far larger sum than they initially entertained.
“We’re not that far apart,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, imploring members of his own party and Democrats to “stop talking past each other.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the White House proposal for a short-term funding bill with money for a border wall was “not a reasonable agreement.”CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times
Recent polls have found that the ordeal is taking a heavy toll on Mr. Trump’s approval rating, including among his core supporters. It has also created a damaging narrative for his administration, fueling a perception that the president — who often promotes his concern for the country’s “forgotten men and women” — and his team are unconcerned with the plight of working Americans who are suffering during the breach in government operations.
In separate appearances over the past 48 hours, the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; the president’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow; and Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law, all made comments seen by some as callous toward federal workers who have now gone more than a month without pay.
“I don’t really quite understand why” those employees are lining up at food banks, Mr. Ross said on CNBC. He suggested they could go to a bank to get a loan to cover lost wages.
Democrats jumped on the comments.
“Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Mr. Ross’ confusion, “or call your father for money?” The second remark was a version of one she made to Mr. Trump in the Situation Room this month, when she tartly noted that the people affected by the shutdown did not have the luxury of being able to depend financially on a parent.
The Democratic funding bill included $14 billion in disaster aid, but otherwise it was similar to one the Senate approved unanimously in December, only to see Mr. Trump reject it and the House cancel a planned vote on it. Republican views in the Senate have shifted sharply since then to reflect the president’s.
Mr. Trump’s proposal paired $5.7 billion in wall funding with temporary legal protections for some immigrants and measures to make it more difficult to claim asylum in the United States. Only one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, crossed party lines to vote for the measure. Two Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, voted against it, considering it too lenient to immigrants.
Mr. Trump’s plan was loosely modeled after an idea that was the centerpiece of quiet bipartisan talks to strike a compromise over the past several weeks to end the shutdown. Among the ideas discussed was legislation that would pair money for border security with permanent legal status for Dreamers, the immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children who stand to lose their deportation protections and work permits after Mr. Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, created by President Barack Obama in 2012.
While it included some of those components, the measure that failed on Thursday was dismissed as a nonstarter by Democratic leaders because it substantially narrowed DACA eligibility, and extended it for only three years, while making major changes to asylum law that would make it harder for migrants fleeing violence and persecution, including children from Central America, to find refuge in the United States. It would also extend three-year reprieves for those living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status — granted in times of conflict or natural disaster — who stand to be removed after Mr. Trump ended their protections.
Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, said he had considered supporting the president’s proposal after he described it in a televised address from the White House, but found the asylum provisions “unacceptable.”
“When I saw what the president had added to the plan he announced just five days ago, particularly as it pertains to the limitations and additional hardships placed on families and children who are legitimately seeking refuge in this country from violence in their own countries, and doing so through the legal asylum process, I could not vote for it despite my consistent support for stronger border security,” Mr. Jones said in a statement.
House leaders had kept their chamber in session through the afternoon to leave room for the possibility that the Democratic measure would prevail in the Senate, and they could call a vote on it later Thursday and send it to the White House. But that never happened, and rank-and-file Democrats, many of whom had marched across the Capitol to the Senate chamber to witness the votes for themselves, spent the afternoon instead highlighting the stories of people devastated by the shutdown.
The House took separate action earlier Thursday to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 28, with all but five Republicans voting “no.” One freshman Democrat, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, also voted against it because it would reopen Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which she wants closed.