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Separate Republican and Democrat bills aimed at ending the US shutdown failed overnight

Meanwhile, The White House has identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for US President Donald Trump’s border wall.

U.S.-WASHINGTON D.C.-GOVERNMENT-TEMPORARILY OPENING-BILL-FAILING Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

THE US SENATE has blocked dueling bills aimed at reopening shuttered federal agencies in a fresh setback to efforts to end a month-long government shutdown.

US President Donald Trump, however, has signaled that he could back a “reasonable” proposal that includes border security.

The legislative deadlock left Congress and the president grasping for a solution as thousands of federal workers, some reliant on food banks to make ends meet, are about to miss a second paycheck today.

The shutdown, which has seen some 800,000 federal employees left without pay for a month, was triggered by Trump’s refusal to sign funding bills in December, in retaliation for Democratic opposition to funds for extending walls along the US-Mexico border.

Shortly after last night’s votes were counted, however, the outlines of a possible deal to end the deepening crisis began to take shape as Senate leaders met in private to discuss a proposal to fund lapsed federal agencies for three weeks, to allow for negotiations over border security.

Asked if he would support the plan, discussed in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, Trump was noncommittal, saying he would still want funding for his wall.

“If they come to a reasonable agreement, I would support it,” he said, but added: “We have to have a wall in this country.”

‘A non-starter’

Yet top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has said that any deal that includes a down payment on Trump’s border wall would be a non-starter.

“I hope that that doesn’t mean some big down payment for the wall,” Pelosi said according to US media, adding, “I don’t know if he knows what he’s talking about.”

Trump had backed a Senate measure which would have reopened the government and funded the wall, while a competing Democratic proposal would have opened government through 8 February without funding Trump’s wall, and leave room for border security negotiations.

Both bills failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance in the 100-member chamber.

Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for both Senate bills, and he called on congressional leaders and the White House to thrash out their differences quickly.

“We can’t just have the lack of communication that prevents us from getting to a deal,” Romney told reporters.

XINHUA PHOTOS OF THE DAY Protestors against the government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

McConnell emerged from his US Capitol office to signal the negotiations were ongoing. “At least we’re talking,” he said. 

The shutdown has continued to hit American families hard, and employees and agencies have been sounding off about the potential crises ahead. 

Meanwhile, CNN has reported that the White House is preparing a draft proclamation for Trump to declare a national emergency along North America’s southern border and has identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for his border wall.

Bypassing Congress altogether, the Trump administration is currently examining a number of alternative options to ensure funding for Trump border wall with Mexico. 

Trump told reporters yesterday; “I have other alternatives if I have to and I’ll use those alternatives if I have to.”

“A lot of people who wants this to happen. The military wants this to happen. This is a virtual invasion of our country.”

Trump is already bruised after being forced into shelving his annual State of the Union address earlier this week by Democrat Pelosi until the government is fully operational.

As acrimony over the shutdown in Washington grew, lawmakers across the political spectrum were left scrambling for an exit strategy for the longest-ever halt to federal operations.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Nobody knows,” warned Senate Republican Richard Shelby.

But Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator who often has the president’s ear, has said that he had discussed with Trump the new proposal gaining traction: a continuing resolution that funds government for three weeks.

“All of us believe that if we had three weeks with the government open, with all the discord coming from a shutdown, that we could find a way forward to produce a bill that he would sign,” Graham said on the Senate floor.

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