Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King were among a group of lawmakers who floated a plan to temporarily reopen government offices Thursday after the failure of two partisan measures.

Collins and King split on earlier votes on starkly different bills to end the 34-day government shutdown that has furloughed roughly 800,000 federal workers, many of whom continue to work without pay. After the vote, however, they were among more than a dozen senators who spoke in support of a three-week “continuing resolution” that would reopen government offices as negotiations continue with President Trump over border security.

“Where I am really optimistic is the fact that 16 senators are on the floor, equally divided between the two parties, and willing to compromise,” Collins, a Republican, said during a brief speech. “Compromise is not a dirty word. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.”

It was unclear Thursday evening whether the bipartisan proposal – spearheaded by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland – would pass muster with congressional leaders and the president. The White House quickly said any short-term deal would need to include “a large down payment” for Trump’s promised border wall.

Some federal offices have been closed for 34 days as of Thursday amid the fight between Trump and Democrats over his insistence for more than $5 billion to build additional sections of a wall – or barrier – along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico.

Furloughed federal employees and their families have, to date, borne the brunt of the impacts, with some resorting to food banks and temporary loans as they miss another paycheck Friday. Concern is growing, however, that the shutdown soon will start to affect major government programs, and economists warn that the impasse is beginning to drag on the national economy.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted on a Trump proposal that would have reopened government, offered a temporary deportation protection for 700,000 so-called “Dreamer” immigrants and provided $5.7 billion to border security funding. That proposal failed on a 50-47 vote, well short of the 60 needed to move forward.

Collins sided with her Republican colleagues in support, while King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, opposed the measure.

Moments later, a Democratic bill to fund the government offices through Feb. 8 while border security negotiations continue failed on a 52-44 vote. Both Collins and King voted in support of the Democratic measure.

Speaking during the subsequent bipartisan floor discussion, Collins said she voted for both measures despite flaws in each because her top priority was ending the harmful government shutdown.

Like other members of the Democratic caucus, King opposed Trump’s proposal because he accuses the president of holding hundreds of thousands of government workers hostage in order to force Congress to approve a “flawed” border wall proposal. But during his floor comments, King insisted members of his caucus are willing to discuss border security and pointed to $1.6 billion in funding approved just last year.

King said the proposal to fund government programs for another three weeks will provide “breathing space” to consult with experts about where additional border security is needed and the best, most cost-effective way to accomplish it.

“Give us a breathing space, take the problem of the shutdown away, and then we can have a discussion – and debate – and find a solution through a process that’s the way it ought to be, not with a shutdown that is hanging over everyone,” King said. “That’s not the way we should be governing.”

In the Democratic-controlled House, meanwhile, Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, led an hour-long floor session Thursday evening featuring Democrats discussing impacts of the shutdown on their constituents.

Pingree accused Trump of being “tone deaf to the financial circumstances of working Americans.” She also pointed to impacts in Maine, ranging from unpaid Coast Guard service members, farmers unable to access agriculture programs and breweries waiting for necessary paperwork to expand or sell new products.

“The consequences of this shutdown have rippled through our state and national economy,” Pingree said.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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Twitter: KevinMillerPPH


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