At the same time, Democrats ramped up calls for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take up House-passed legislation to fund the government, regardless of whether the president agrees. McConnell, whose office insists it’s up to Democrats to make a deal, has taken a low public profile as the stalemate drags on, seemingly wary of being burned once again by Trump after the president did an abrupt about-face last month and opposed a temporary funding bill that had cleared the Senate.
So far, three Republican senators — Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Susan Collins (Maine), both running for reelection in states Trump lost in 2016, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have called for an immediate end to the partial shutdown even without the more than $5 billion Trump has demanded for the wall. The impasse left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck Friday, as lawmakers were back in their states and congressional districts.
If other senators begin feeling the heat from constituents, they could force McConnell’s hand, Republican strategist Doug Heye said. “If he has, like, three more Republican senators — whoever they may be — calling for something to be done, then that changes the calculus,” he said. “But until that happens, there is no political motivation for McConnell.”