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Story highlights

"That's our ultimate card, is to threaten to shut down the government when we get to the end of the funding," Coons said Monday.

"One of our challenges is we're Democrats. We don't want to shut down the government," Coons said.

(CNN) —  

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said that threatening to shut down the government is the “only card” Democrats have in negotiations with the Republican majority.

The Delaware senator was asked Monday on WHYY radio what Democrats could do to force the hand of Republicans who may be hesitant to investigate questions surrounding the Trump administration and Russia.

“Sen. (Chuck) Schumer, who’s our Minority Leader, who’s the leader of the Democratic caucus, is regularly negotiating with Majority Leader McConnell over what we are willing to do or not do to shut down the government or shut down the Senate,” Coons said. “We’ve had as you saw, a number of fairly bitter fights over confirmation.”

Coons added, “One of our challenges is we’re Democrats. We don’t want to shut down the government. We actually think the government overall does good things for the American people.”

“When Sen. Cruz led a successful effort to shut down the government of the United States for 17 days, thousands of federal agencies and offices and functions shut down for several weeks,” continued Coons. “I heard very loudly and clearly from the people of Delaware, they don’t want us to do that. That’s our ultimate card, is to threaten to shut down the government when we get to the end of the funding, that’s coming up fairly soon, the end of the continuing resolution. But that’s really the only card we’ve got.”

In a statement after publication of this story, Coons communications director Sean Coit said Coons “of course does not believe we should shut down the government.”

“He was simply pointing out that funding bills are often forcing mechanisms for both parties to come to agreement on stalled issues,” he said. “At some point, congressional Republicans have to recognize the need for a full, bipartisan investigation into allegations of Russian interference in our democracy.”