With the government shutdown poised to break a record Saturday as the longest in U.S. history, the Senate will be home for another long weekend. Again.
With federal workers missing their first paychecks of the year Friday, senators were enjoying their fourth extended weekend since several federal agencies began furloughing employees and closing up shop.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who has largely eschewed his usual role as a key Senate negotiator and made it clear he won’t entertain legislation that doesn’t have President Donald Trump’s approval, allowed senators to return home early Thursday afternoon. They’re due back Monday night.
As a result senators had a quick work week. They didn’t start until Tuesday night.
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The week before that, when New Year’s Day fell on a Tuesday? Gone Dec. 28, back Jan. 3.
And before that, the weekend that began Dec. 22, the day the partial shutdown started?
Gone that afternoon and back, for about five minutes, Dec. 28.
On Friday this week, the Senate officially remained in session, but neither McConnell nor Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, spoke on the Senate floor, as is their custom.
McConnell left Washington for Kentucky, a spokesman for his office said. Democrats assailed McConnell for shuttering the Senate and refusing to take up House spending bills that would get the government running.
McConnell’s fellow Republicans suggested the majority leader could be involved in finding a way out of the shutdown that’s closed nine Cabinet agencies and several smaller departments..
“He’s in all the meetings, he’s in all the conversations,” said Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky. “But ultimately, the negotiations have to be between Schumer and the Trump administration.”
At least one senator was clearly happy with the Thursday decision to allow him to return home.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, tweeted a picture of him and his two sons: “Good to be home this morning and see my little guys! They’re hoping for snow! Everyone drive safely today — lots of snow potentially coming to MO.”
Some on Twitter were not pleased.
“The fact that you’re in MO means you don’t care about the ~40,000 federal workers living in MO, our National Parks, airport terminal closures, lack of food safety inspections, etc. It’s unethical and immoral. And no amount of snow is going to bury that,” a person with the Twitter handle @char-broiled tweeted.
The Democratic-led House did meet Friday, voted and then left for the weekend. Republicans taunted them for leaving.
“Democrats just packed up their bags and headed home,” the House Republican Conference said in an email, blaming Democrats for refusing to give Trump any money for the wall that the president promised during the 2016 campaign.
With no votes scheduled, and no apparent negotiations underway to end the impasse, only a few senators appeared at the Capitol Friday.
They included Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, who decried the lack of pay for federal workers and called on the Senate to take up legislation to get the government running. He did, however, credit McConnell for securing a provision to guarantee affected workers that paychecks will resume when the government reopens.
Kaine noted McConnell had called the White House and spoke directly with Trump, who assured him he’d sign the legislation, which cleared the House on Friday.
“It’s not as good as a paycheck,” Kaine said. “But it adds a little something on a tough day to tell people that they can rest assured that when we figure this out, they will be made whole.”
How it gets figured out is unknown. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Friday revived a bill to provide $25 billion in a “trust fund” for border security — some of which would pay for 700 miles of new border wall — in exchange for safeguarding some people who entered the country illegally as children.
It appeared unlikely that Democrats would support the measure. They did not embrace a previous version of the bill Portman and Moran suggested a year ago.
Portman also re-introduced legislation that would prevent the federal government from shutting down, by creating an automatic spending bill that would keeping the federal government running even if budget negotiations falter.
Bryan Lowry and Lindsay Wise contributed to this report.