Senate Democrats will try to block action on a Syria sanctions bill when it comes up for a vote Tuesday, an effort to keep the focus on the government shutdown.
Democrats also will discuss at their weekly policy lunch Wednesday whether to broaden that blocking tactic to all legislation, according to a senior Democratic aide.
A separate senior Democratic aide said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “has notified the (Democratic) caucus that he will vote against proceeding to S.1 because Senate Republicans should instead bring to the floor the House-passed bills to reopen the government.”
Over the weekend, the two Democratic senators from Maryland – Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen – who represent thousands of furloughed federal government workers, first publicly raised the idea of blocking bills on the floor to raise the political stakes on President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is refusing to put any government funding bills on the floor unless Trump supports them.
McConnell has said he won’t make his members vote on a bill to reopen the government without assurances that Trump would sign it, though at least two Republican senators have pushed to reopen the government while wall negotiations continue.
The measure in question Tuesday, combines four Middle East-related bills, including new sanctions on the Syrian regime, and is viewed by critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops there as a vehicle to speak out against that move.
The government partially shut down late last year following a lapse in funding for 25% of the federal government largely over Trump’s demand for $5 billion for his signature campaign promise of a border wall. Democrats have refused to budge on Trump’s demand, despite talks throughout the weekend aimed at reopening the government.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn expressed his annoyance at Democrats having blocked so many of the Cabinet nominees in the last Congress and noted that the ones not confirmed last cycle have to be re-appointed.
“I think it’s always better to have the advice and consent of the Senate and have people that have been thoroughly vetted and confirmed,” Cornyn told CNN.
This story has been updated with additional developments.