- The federal government will enter a partial shutdown at midnight unless Congress passes a funding bill.
- Legislation has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Democrats and a few Republicans.
- Two Democrats from red states that are up for re-election in 2018 have switched sides and will vote for the funding bill.
Democrats representing states President Donald Trump won in 2016 are feeling the pressure to back the GOP’s short-term funding bill, which would extend the shutdown deadline to February 16.
Three red-state Democrats – Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – announced they would vote for the GOP’s short-term bill.
“It’s the most basic duty of Congress to keep our government running,” Donnelly said in a speech on the Senate floor Friday. “I was elected by the people of Indiana to work every day on behalf of Hoosiers to do my job as United States Senator. Keeping the government running is our job, and I will vote to keep the government running.”
Heitkamp gave similar reasons for a “yes” vote, but also stressed that the state of affairs was not acceptable.
“My vote to keep the government open is not an endorsement for a bill that just kicks the can down the road another few weeks,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “In fact, it will be the fourth time Congress has punted in five months. Congress has become equivalent to Groundhog Day – the same thing just keeps happening over and over every few weeks without a new result.”
Several Democratic senators in red states up for reelection in 2018, like Donnelly and Manchin, could be targets for Republicans.
Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida are up for reelection this year in states Trump won and have been mum on their votes. Spokespeople for McCaskill and Nelson did not respond to requests for comment.
Even if those members flip, Republicans still have a maths problem. The party needs 60 votes total for the legislation to clear a key procedural hurdle, and getting 10 Democrats on board is a tall task. Even more problematic for the GOP: Three Republican senators have signalled they will vote against the CR, making the path to 60 votes even more daunting.