The Senate approved a bill by voice vote to provide back pay to federal workers currently on furlough or working without pay when the government shutdown ends. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign the bill, which first must be passed by the House.
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"I had an opportunity to talk to the president a few moments ago, and wanted to indicate to our colleagues that he will sign the bill that we are discussing here to guarantee that government workers who've been displaced because of the shutdown will ultimately be compensated," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed or are doing their jobs without a paycheck.
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The House passed a few government spending bills this week that garnered some Republican support, but the bills are likely dead on arrival in the Senate. On Thursday, the House passed a spending bill to fund the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service, with eight Republicans joining Democrats to approve the bill.
The shutdown does not seem to be any closer to a resolution. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican and close White House ally, said Thursday he doesn't see a way to resolve the shutdown dispute that has paralyzed much of the federal government. "I have never been more depressed about moving forward than I am right now," Graham told reporters. "I just don't see a pathway forward. Somebody has got to get some energy to fix this."
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Negotiations between Trump and Democratic leaders have so far proven fruitless. On Wednesday, the president abruptly left a meeting after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would not fund the wall. "He sort of slammed the table, and when Leader Pelosi said she didn't agree with the wall, [Trump] walked out and said, 'We have nothing to discuss,'" Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, although Trump has denied that he slammed the table.
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On Thursday, the president said he would declare a national emergency to compel funds for the wall if he couldn't make a deal with Democrats. "If this doesn't work out, I probably will do it, I would almost say definitely," the president told reporters. Trump reiterated on Friday while visiting the border that he was considering calling a national emergency.
"If we don't make a deal, I would say 100 percent but I don't want to say 100 percent," he said.
If Congress doesn't make a deal, Trump said "it would be very surprising" if he didn't declare such a national emergency. Declaring a national emergency, the president explained, frees up a "tremendous" amount of funds.