By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. Senate planned votes on Thursday for competing proposals to end the partial government shutdown - both of which were likely to fail - as lawmakers and the White House sniped at each other over how to break their month long impasse.
In the hours before the vote, signs emerged that lawmakers might consider new ideas for ending the 34-day shutdown, which was triggered by President Donald Trump's demand for money to fund his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters she was willing to meet with the Republican president to discuss the issue.
Her comment came one day after she announced that Trump’s State of the Union speech in the House chamber, scheduled for Tuesday, would not occur until the shutdown ended, despite the president's plans to come. Trump, who considered giving the speech at another venue, conceded late on Wednesday and said he would deliver the speech in the House in the "near future."
Trump wants $5.7 billion for the border barrier, opposed by Democrats, as part of any legislation to fund about a quarter of the federal government.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is in regular contact with Trump, told reporters there were bipartisan efforts in the Senate to win the president's backing for a three-to-four-week government funding bill that would open shuttered agencies while border security negotiations take place. He urged Pelosi to back the efforts in the House.
The longest such shutdown in U.S. history has left 800,000 federal workers, as well as private contractors, without pay and struggling to make ends meet, with the effects on government services and the economy reverberating nationwide.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday urged furloughed federal workers to seek loans to pay their bills while adding in a CNBC interview that he couldn't understand why they were having trouble getting by.
Pelosi denounced the comments.
"Is this the 'Let them eat cake' kind of attitude or 'Call your father for money?' or 'This is character building for you?'" Pelosi asked at a news conference.
She said she did not understand why Ross would make the comment "as hundreds of thousands of men and women are about to miss a second paycheck tomorrow."
Trump responded to Pelosi, without mentioning Ross.
"Nancy just said she 'just doesn’t understand why?' Very simply, without a Wall it all doesn’t work. Our Country has a chance to greatly reduce Crime, Human Trafficking, Gangs and Drugs. Should have been done for decades. We will not Cave!" he said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned a vote on Thursday afternoon on a Democratic proposal to fund the government for three weeks that does not include wall funding.
Its prospects looked dim in the Republican-majority Senate, although at least one conservative senator reportedly plans to back it. The Democratic-controlled House has passed similar bills but Trump has rejected legislation that does not include the wall funding.
McConnell has previously said he would not consider legislation that Trump did not support. The fact that he is willing to allow a vote suggests he may be trying to persuade lawmakers of both parties to compromise.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner intends to vote for the bill, the Denver Post said, citing the lawmaker's spokesman. Gardner's representatives could not be reached for immediately for comment.
McConnell also planned to hold a vote on a separate bill that includes wall funding and a temporary extension of protections for "Dreamers," hundreds of thousands of people brought to the United States illegally as children, to reflect an offer Trump made on Saturday.
Democrats have dismissed Trump's offer, saying they would not negotiate on border security before reopening the government and would not trade a temporary extension of the immigrants' protections in return for a permanent border wall they have called ineffective, costly and immoral.
One possibility emerged on Wednesday when House Democratic leaders floated the idea of giving Trump most or all of the money he seeks for security along the Mexican border in the form of drones and sensors, as well as more border patrol agents, but not funds for building a wall.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found more than half of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown even as he has sought to shift blame to Democrats after saying last month he would be "proud" to close the government for border security.
John Kelly, who served as Trump’s chief of staff and Homeland Security secretary, and four other former Homeland Security secretaries called the shutdown “unconscionable” in a letter to Trump and Congress, warning that some of the agencies 240,000 employees may be forced to quit and look for work elsewhere if they do not get paid.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Roberta Rampton and Andy Sullivan; Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Trott)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
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Updated Date: Jan 25, 2019 02:06:37 IST