In this shutdown, every day is a winding road

Photo by Liz Ruskin

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says it’s slow-going, but she sees progress at the U.S. Capitol among lawmakers working to end the partial government shutdown, now in its fourth week.

Does she see a path to reopening government? The question prompted her to sing a Beatles line: “A long and winding road. Buh-boom.”

Murkowski has been meeting with other senators, Republicans and Democrats, who also want to end the stalemate. She said their numbers are growing, and she’s somewhat hopeful.

“The important thing for folks is to know that we’re not just sitting back here and hoping that one day (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi or President Trump are going to wake up and say ‘I’ve changed my mind.’ That’s not how we’re going to to get out of this,” Murkowski said. “I think it’s going to take a coalition of the willing, and I’m part of that willing.”

Her latest plan may sound familiar: She wants Congress to pass a short-term continuing resolution that would re-open government now, and then consider all the elements in President Trump’s border security package, including the wall. President Trump just rejected a similar idea.

“Well, it’s been re-floated,” Murkowski said. “And it’s been suggested that, look, if there is a there is a significant group of folks that would get behind this, is this something that we can talk about? And so we’re taking very baby steps here.”

Murkowski says she knows that workers who are no longer getting paid want to see more than baby steps, but she says it takes some work to resolve what’s become a serious impasse.

Sen. Dan Sullivan said on the Senate floor the solution has to include Trump’s border security program.

“Every nation has the right, has the responsibility to protect its citizens, protect its sovereignty, and in my view this is something that should not be controversial,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan sees a different path forward.  He says all sides are near an agreement to secure pay for the Coast Guard, and he says that can serve as a template for ending the broader shutdown.

Meanwhile, in an unusual display of impatience, a group of Democrats, all brand-new House members, marched over to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to urge him to break the impasse. But, McConnell wasn’t in.

“We left a note for them to set up a meeting,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., told a throng of reporters following them. “So we’ll be back!”

After a few more statements to the Capitol press corps, they turned to head back to the House.

They went the wrong way.

“Hey, we’re freshmen,” one said.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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