Senate Prepares for Key Vote as Government Shutdown Enters Day 3

WASHINGTON --- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised some Democrats' hopes for a quick end to the government shutdown Monday, saying "I hope and intend" to reach agreement soon on immigration and other contentious issues -- if the Democrats agree now to a stopgap spending measure lasting a little less than three weeks.The Senate is set to vote around noon EST on that measure -- to cut off a Democratic filibuster -- with most government offices cut back drastically or even closed on Monday. The shutdown began at midnight Friday, but the major effects are only now being felt with the beginning of the workweek.McConnell said he hopes to reach bipartisan solutions on immigration, border security, disaster aid, military funding and more by Feb. 8. If not, he said "it would be my intention to take up legislation" addressing those issues.Democratic leader Chuck Schumer did not come to the floor to respond to McConnell, but at least three Democrats who have been attempting to negotiate a way out of the shutdown mess said they were encouraged by McConnell's tone.Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said he's "enormously optimistic" that there is a pathway to stop the shutdown. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said McConnell was "more specific and encouraging."And West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, one of a handful of Democrats to break with his party last week to vote in favor of the must-pass spending bill, told NBC News he felt "very positive" about the vote, predicting the government "will be open by 12:15."The vote Monday will prove to be a test of unity and resolve among Democrats. Five Democrats from states won by Trump broke ranks in a vote Friday. The measure gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 are needed to break a Democratic filibuster.Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican leader who spent the weekend hammering his Democratic colleagues over the standoff, told reporters on Monday that that he hopes Schumer "will release Senate Democrats to vote the way I know many of them would like to vote." Republicans have appeared increasingly confident that Democrats are bearing the brunt of criticism for the shutdown and that they will ultimately buckle. The White House and GOP leaders said they would not negotiate with Democrats on immigration until the government is reopened.But on Monday, pro-immigration advocates urged Democratic leaders to hold the line. Those groups are skeptical of GOP pledges to take up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program by its March expiration, and argue so-called Dreamers are already losing key protections.“Today members of Congress must stand strong and prove to the world that enough is enough,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, of United We Dream. “To anyone considering such a move, let me be clear: Promises won’t protect anyone from deportation because delay means deportation for us.”President Donald Trump on Monday accused Democrats of prioritizing services and security for noncitizens over U.S. citizens. "Not good," his first tweet said. In a second tweet, he said, "Democrats have shut down our government in the interests of their far left base. They don't want to do it but are powerless!"Trump's first tweet appeared to undercut comments by his legislative affairs director, Marc Short, who told CNN that the immigrants in question are law-abiding and "productive to our society."Short says the administration wants to "find a pathway for them" to stay in the U.S.-- The Associated Press and Washington correspondents Katie Leslie and Nicole Cobler contributed to this report.   Continue reading...

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