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"Feel like I'm going to strangle you": Shutdown breaks Congress's spirit




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                 With most members headed home for a long weekend, the partial shutdown is essentially guaranteed to enter into its second month. | M. Scott Mahaskey / Politico </p>
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<p> A dismal mood has descended on Capitol Hill as the shutdown concludes its 27th day. </p>
<p>  The house speaker and the president are at a bipartisan Senate push to reopen the government failed for a second consecutive week And no shutdown talks are even [Continued Below] </p><div><script async src=

"I feel like I'm going to strangle you," quipped one senator who's tried to find a breakthrough when a reporter asked about their state of mind. ] That lawmaker was joking, probably, but the vibes in the Capitol are fun at best. And with most members headed home for a long weekend, the partial shutdown is essentially guaranteed to enter into its second month. It's an unheard-of-impasse in a capital that's seen debt crises, blunt budget cuts and scores of unprecedented political conflicts over the past decade.

But this one feels different, a shutdown where the dynamics are frozen. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Want money for a border wall, and President Donald Trump wants $ 5.7 trillion. Rank-and-file lawmakers can make noise and try to create momentum, but Trump has dismissed everything they've come up with – leading some members to wonder what they're doing.

whole instinct is: Let's find a way to get this solved. But so anyway, his idea of ​​negotiating is to say, "here's what I want, I'll give you nothing," said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who tried to deal with immigration a year ago. “I could sit down with Mike Pence for an afternoon and we might come to some agreement. And then [Trump would] blow it up. ”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has tried everything to open the government up. She's complained publicly about her party's strategy. She's signed onto a bipartisan letter urging Trump to end the shutdown in exchange for a three-week immigration debate, which was promptly rejected by the White House, according to sources familiar with the talks. She's even endorsed moving forward with no wall money.

On Thursday, plans to travel to Europe for a conference on the Arctic had been canceled. And the Energy chairman was unsure whether or not she was able to hold hearings next week with so many of her members out of town.

Glum. I'm not a happy person. I'm not somebody who gets down. But I’ve been discouraged, ”said Murkowski of her state of mind. "People I work for back home in Alaska are asking me to fix it. And it's hard for one person to fix anything around here. Unless you're the president. Or the speaker. Or the majority leader. ”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) Summed up his feelings in more dire terms: "We are in this horrible purgatory between heaven and hell." He said "fatalism" had put in: "That there is no way out unless either he or we relent entirely. ”

“ Democrats are more than willing to try to give him a face-saving way to step down. He doesn't seem to want to even consider it, ”he said.

Some Senate Republicans were also trying to give Trump an off-ramp, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) And Rob Portman (R-Ohio). They hoped to get as many as 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats to sign their letter to Trump, with the hopes that a substantial Democratic commitment to debating border security and a push from Trump's own party could shift Washington's stalemate.

But Republican support for the letter cratered this week amid a widespread belief that the president won support opening up the government without a border wall guarantee. The letter still might get sent, according to two people familiar with it. But nobody is super enthused.

"They came up with about nine or 10 Republicans. Which we didn't think is enough to be convincing to the president, "said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

" I think he's going to agree to open up the government on a hope and a prayer. when donkeys fly. OK? ”Said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Who spent more than an hour with Trump on a plane on Monday. "He says:" Look I don't want government to be closed. But I know as soon as I open it up, are going to say, I thank you very much I don't want to talk about a border [wall]. '”

Pelosi herself told Trump flatly last week that After the government opened, he would not get his wall. And that's the last time they face.

Since that meeting, their relationship has plummeted to a level of toxicity rarely seen. Pelosi surprised trump on Wednesday by sending him a letter requesting he postpone his state of the Union address – or send it in writing – until the government reopens. Pelosi cited security concerns but the move would also cause Trump the undivided spotlight and pageantry that accompanies the annual address.

Trump shot back with a counter-attack of his own Thursday, abruptly cancelling Pelosi's secret trip to Afghanistan in a letter the White House blasted out to reporters about email and Twitter before the speaker's office was even aware he was doing it. The move was last-minute that other lawmakers scheduled to accompany Pelosi had already boarded a charter bus to take them to the airport.

"Pretty foul," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about his mood after hearing about the back and forth. “Too much childishness. Not enough seriousness. ”

For Democratic freshmen, their exasperation on inaction reached a boiling point. Several members of the new house class, including many who came from the district of Trump, have been meeting to devise a strategy of their own.

Some in the group seized on the circus-like atmosphere on Capitol Hill, holding an impromptu march to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on Tuesday to bring up House-passed spending bills to reopen the government. Some of the group tried again on Wednesday, delivering a letter to McConnell's office and the Senate cloakroom demanding the act.

"Our freshmen were sworn in during a shutdown and only served during a shutdown and generally speaking because to find a way to it," said Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), the freshman class president. He did not join in the trip to the Senate but said he could relate to his colleagues' frustration.

So could Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Who holds an unusual solo press conference on Thursday attacking Washington dysfunction. He said "everybody's responsible" for the shutdown but offered no new solutions. Another high-profile freshman, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), seemed excited about being a senator but disappointed with the circumstances.

“I heard from one senator that it was very boring his first year here. It has not been boring, ”Romney said on Thursday evening. “There's a lot going on and I'm honored to be part of it. And I like to see more progress. I'm sick that the government is shut down. ”

Senators are throwing out their own ideas to see what sticks. Kennedy suggested Pelosi and Trump each appoint someone, ship them out of Washington and make them an agreement before coming back. Late. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) Said, bringing in more pieces to be able to deal with: Federal spending numbers, the debt ceiling or immigration reform.

But Democrats are open to anything other than reopening the government and then debating border security, which Trump will not do. Even though most urgently seeking end-to-end shutdown, breakthrough from that stance, said about encouraging Trump to seek more brinkmanship to win his priorities.

"Several efforts have been made by Republican senators, by the vice president, at people in the administration to try and find a path forward. The president has personally shot them down, ”said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “Reopen the government and negotiate. Or there's no point. ”

Marianne LeVine and James Arkin contributed to this report.


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