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'Time to Play Hardball': Progressives Pressure Senate Democrats to Stonewall All Bills That Don't End Trump Shutdown

"Every day this senseless and manufactured crisis drags on, real families with very real bills are harmed and millions are denied the vital services we deserve."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill after returning from the White House on January 02, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refusing to allow a floor vote on government funding bills that passed the Democratic House last week, progressive organizations are attempting to force the GOP leader's hand by pressuring Democrats to stonewall all Senate business and legislation that is unrelated to reopening the federal government.

"Time to take it up a notch. McConnell refuses to even allow a vote on the bipartisan House budget. Democrats can grind Senate business to a near halt until he agrees to a vote."
—Ezra Levin, Indivisible

"Instead of addressing the most urgent issue, Mitch McConnell is planning to bring unrelated bills to the floor for a vote," declared Indivisible, one of the groups leading the pressure campaign. "He'd like to pretend that it's business as usual in the Senate—not that hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay."

"It's time to play hardball," the group added. "It's simple: the only thing that the Senate should be working on right now is ending this shutdown. The House has done its job. Now it's time for the Senate to do the same."

On Tuesday, McConnell reportedly plans to hold a procedural vote on Senate Bill 1 (S.1), bipartisan legislation that would hand states and localities more power to punish boycotts of Israel—a move the ACLU condemned as a flagrant attack on the First Amendment.

Ahead of the scheduled vote, MoveOn.org, Indivisible, the AFL-CIO, and other progressive groups are calling on the public to flood their senators' phonelines and urge them to oppose Tuesday's motion to proceed, as well as any other measures unrelated to solving the ongoing government shutdown.

"Senators should refuse to proceed to any legislation until the government is re-opened. If it's not a funding bill, then it should wait," Indivisible said. "McConnell can only proceed with other legislation if he has 60 votes to end debate. That means that if enough senators stick together, they hold up legislation until the government re-opens. Call your senators now (whether they're Democrats or Republicans, because Republicans really should get on board with this too) and tell them: no votes on other legislation until the government re-opens."

As of this writing, at least ten senators have publicly vowed to stand with the progressive grassroots and block legislation unrelated to reopening the government. Those senators are: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

"Every day this senseless and manufactured crisis drags on, real families with very real bills are harmed and millions are denied the vital services we deserve."
—Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO

According to the Washington Post's Jeff Stein, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) "has started telling the caucus he will vote against" the motion to proceed on Tuesday "because the government shutdown remains unresolved." This news comes just days after The Intercept reported that Schumer plans to support the legislation punishing boycotts of Israel.

"We should insist that our focus be on reopening the government," Van Hollen told the Post on Monday. "Hundreds of thousands of people are working without pay. Hundreds of thousands more are being furloughed. Lots of small businesses that contract with the federal government are hurting. And you've got all the services being denied to the American people. That will continue to grow."

In a statement on Monday, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka argued that ending the government shutdown and allowing the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers to return to their jobs "must be the highest and only priority of the U.S. Senate."

"The AFL-CIO calls on all senators to reject consideration of any bills or business unrelated to opening the government," Trumka said. "Every day this senseless and manufactured crisis drags on, real families with very real bills are harmed and millions are denied the vital services we deserve. Politicians need to do their job and allow us to do ours."

The progressive groups' pressure campaign comes as the government shutdown continued into its third week on Monday, with President Donald Trump refusing to back away from his demand for $5 billion in funding for his "border wall."

Last week, and then again over the weekend, the president threatened to declare a "national emergency" to build the wall—a move some legal experts said would be an unconstitutional abuse of power.

Further indicating that he is sticking with his wall demand, Trump announced in a tweet that he will deliver an address Tuesday night on what he called "the humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border."

As an alternative to Trump's demands, progressive groups are calling for passage of a "clean" government funding bill without any money for border wall construction, detention beds, or border agents.

"This is not business as usual," Indivisible said. "It's Congress' responsibility to fund the government, a responsibility that McConnell is now abdicating. Luckily, McConnell can only proceed with his plan if he has the support of at least 60 senators, which means Democrats have the power to stop him in his tracks."

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