No deal reached, as moderates search for shutdown solution

Restive Senate moderates in both parties searched for a solution to a partisan stalemate as they raced toward a late-night showdown vote and their last chance to reopen the federal government before hundreds of thousands of federal workers were forced to stay home Monday.

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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill said they were pursuing a deal to end the rare closure, prompted Friday by a messy tussle over immigration and spending. There were no indications that a firm agreement had been reached, or that leaders of either party or the White House were on board. A stopgap spending measure was slated for a vote on Monday after midnight, but Democrats have so far refused to go along with the temporary fix.

Republicans have appeared increasingly confident that Democrats were bearing the brunt of criticism for the shutdown and that they would ultimately buckle. The White House and GOP leadership said they would not negotiate with Democrats on immigration until the government is reopened.

There were indications Sunday that Democratic resolve was beginning to waver, with growing worries that a prolonged shutdown could prove to be an electoral headache for the party just as they have grown confident about their prospects in November.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, indicated that Republican leaders were skeptical that Democrats would budge. Asked whether he thought the government would be closed Monday, he said, “Right now, yes, I do.”

The discussions took place in behind closed doors with few outward signs of progress, as lawmakers took turns delivering animated speeches to near empty chambers to explain why the other party is to blame. Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met off the Senate floor in the early evening, as many in quiet Capitol offices flipped their television screens to playoff football games.

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As lawmakers feuded, signs of the shutdown were evident at national parks and in some federal agencies. Social Security and most other safety-net programs were unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions continued, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay.

Lawmakers were mindful that the political stakes would soar Monday morning, when thousands of federal workers would be told to stay home or, in some cases, work without pay. What was still a weekend burst of Washington dysfunction could spiral into a broader crisis with political consequences in November’s midterm elections.

That threat prompted moderates to huddle for a second day Sunday in hopes of crafting a plan to reopen the government. The contours of that proposal were still taking shape Sunday evening. In exchange for Democratic votes on a three-week spending measure, the GOP leadership in the Senate would agree to address immigration policy and other pressing legislative matters in the coming weeks.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the potential deal would not secure an immediate vote on immigration tied to reopening the government, but lawmakers were seeking “an agreement that we would proceed to immigration.”

The approach found advocates in South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been trying to broker an immigration deal, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans who rejected an earlier short-term proposal. Lawmakers took the proposal to their leaders Sunday afternoon.

But shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, Graham said no deal had been reached by the moderate group because Democrats were not on board. “To my Democratic friends, don’t overplay your hand,” he told reporters. “A government shutdown is not a good way to get an outcome legislatively.”

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, indicated earlier Sunday that he would continue to lead a filibuster of the stopgap spending measure, while congressional Republicans appeared content to let the pressure build on the second day of the government shutdown. After Senate Democrats blocked a temporary government-wide funding bill Friday night, both parties engaged in furious finger-pointing.

Democrats, who initially dug in on a demand for legislation to protect about 700,000 immigrants who were brought illegally to the country as children, shifted to blame the shutdown on the incompetence of President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership. Republicans argued that Democrats shuttered the government over “illegal immigration” in a bid to gin up enthusiasm among their base.

“I think they miscalculated on the shutdown,” Cornyn said. “It’s very unpopular and they’re trying to find a way out of it.”

Absent a breakthrough, the vote early Monday will prove to be a test of unity and resolve among Democrats. Five Democrats from states won by Trump broke ranks in a vote Friday. The measure gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

Trump, who regularly disrupted negotiations in recent weeks, had been a relatively subdued player in the weekend debate. He has not appeared in public since Friday afternoon. The White House said he was in regular contact with Republican leaders, but he has not reached out to any Democrats, a White House official said.

Sunday morning on Twitter, he called on the GOP-controlled Senate to consider deploying the “nuclear option” — changing Senate rules to end the filibuster — and reopen the government with a simple majority.

McConnell has dismissed that option, saying Republicans will welcome the filibuster when they return to being the Senate minority.

Democrats are facing intense pressure from their base to solve the issue over the young immigrants, and they are skeptical of Republicans’ credibility when offering to deal. Whether Trump would back the emerging plan or any later proposal on immigration is an open question. Even if the Senate voted on an immigration proposal, its prospects in the House would be grim.

Furthermore, Democrats view Trump as an infuriating bargaining partner, pointing chiefly to his failed 11th-hour talks with Schumer on Friday. The Democrat says Trump expressed support for a fix for the young immigrants in return for financing for Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — only to back off hours later. The White House says Schumer and the president never came to terms.

“How can you negotiate with the president under those circumstances where he agrees face to face to move forward with a certain path and then within two hours calls back and pulls the plug?” asked Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

The Latest: Government shutdown will continue into Monday

The Latest on the government shutdown (all times local):

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9:30 p.m.

The government shutdown will continue into Monday.

The Senate will vote at noon on Monday on whether to cut off a Democratic filibuster of legislation to end the government shutdown.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said there is still no agreement to pass the stopgap funding bill.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the vote after Schumer blocked a bid for an immediate vote Sunday night. McConnell said he intends to bring up free-standing immigration legislation in February.

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Democrats have blocked a House-passed temporary funding bill to reopen the government’s doors through Feb. 16. The pending Senate measure would last through Feb. 8.

A host of the chamber’s more pragmatic members are pressing to resolve the shutdown mess. Schumer said there have been talks throughout Sunday with McConnell.

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4:30 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn on the second day of a government shutdown.

The White House put out a brief statement Sunday detailing the president’s activities, saying the administration was hard at work. Trump has also received updates from staff and has spoken to aides about the impact of the shutdown.

Chief of Staff John Kelly has spoken with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, has spoken to Republican and Democratic members and staffers.

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1:40 p.m.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s calls to end Senate filibusters.

When filibusters of legislation are underway, it takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to halt them.

Republicans now control the chamber 51-49. But strong Democratic opposition and some defecting GOP senators have kept Republicans from getting the votes needed to end the shutdown — now in its second day.

McConnell has long defended the filibuster. He says Republicans will welcome it whenever they are returned to the Senate minority.

As the Senate began a rare Sunday session, the Kentucky Republican said: “I support that right from an institutional point of view.” But he also said, “The question is, when do you use it.”

Trump has made repeated calls this year to end that rule, and did it again Sunday in a tweet.

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11:30 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says that if Democrats want to protect young immigrants in the country illegally, they should vote for a short-term spending bill.

The Wisconsin Republican says, “Open the government back up and then we’ll get back to negotiating.”

The federal government entered the second day of a shutdown Sunday.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Ryan says good-faith negotiations on an immigration deal are taking place, though Democrats take issue with that assessment.

As a citizen, Donald Trump criticized President Barack Obama during the 2013 government shutdown for failing to “lead” and getting everyone in the room.

Ryan says on the current shutdown, “you can’t blame Donald Trump for the Senate Democrats shutting down the government.”

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10:05 a.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling on Republicans to “sit down and talk” with Democrats on immigration in an effort to reopen the government.

The former Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the reality is that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done.

He says, “What we should be doing is negotiating.”

Sanders maintains that government funding legislation must provide legal status for the roughly 700,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

The White House has said it won’t negotiate on immigration until Democrats vote to reopen the government.

Sanders is unapologetic about his own criticism of Republicans for shutting down the government in 2013, saying President Barack Obama wasn’t going to repeal his health care law.

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9:55 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is blasting Congress for playing politics with military pay by failing to keep the government open.

Pence told U.S. soldiers stationed near the Syrian border on Sunday: “You deserve better.” He says the soldiers and their families “shouldn’t have to worry about getting paid.”

Pence spoke to troops in the Middle East as Democrats and Republicans in Congress show few signs of progress on negotiations to end the government shutdown.

The vice president says President Donald Trump’s administration will not reopen negotiations “on illegal immigration” until Congress reopens the government and until soldiers and their families receive “the benefits and wages you’ve earned.”

Uniformed service members and law enforcement officers are among the essential government employees who will be working without pay until the federal government reopens.

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9:50 a.m.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is calling the shutdown blame game “ridiculous on both sides.”

The senator from Kentucky said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “It’s gamesmanship and it’s partisanship.”

Paul was among a handful of Republicans who voted with most Democrats against the House bill to keep the government open. He says he’s opposed to short-term fiscal bills.

Paul called on Republican leadership in both chambers of Congress to commit to a week of debate and a vote on immigration legislation in the next month, to win over Democratic votes to reopen the government.

But Democrats are insisting that long-term funding legislation include protections for roughly 700,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children — not just a vote on their status.

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9:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump says if the government shutdown drags on, Republicans should consider changing the rules in the Senate to make it easier to pass legislation without votes from Democrats.

But Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says that would mean the end of the Senate as the Founding Fathers envisioned it.

The shutdown is now in its second day. Lawmakers are set to return to work on Capitol Hill later Sunday but there’s no sign of a possible deal.

The Republican president is floating the idea of doing away with the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation and deny the minority party the chance to stall.

Senate Republicans now hold a 51-49 edge.

Durbin tells ABC’s “This Week” that “we have to acknowledge a respect for the minority.”

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9:20 a.m.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is defending himself from charges of hypocrisy in his attacks on Democrats over the government shutdown, given his own role at the center of the last fiscal clash in 2013.

Mulvaney said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union: “Everything that was in the bill Democrats support and have voted for previously.” He says, “This is pure politics.”

Mulvaney was a conservative member of the House in 2013 when a showdown over “Obamacare” funding led to the last shutdown.

Mulvaney reiterated Sunday that the administration won’t negotiate with Democrats on immigration or a longer-term spending bill until they vote to reopen the government.

He says, “They need to open the government tonight or tomorrow and then we can start talking.”

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12:45 a.m.

Feuding Democrats and Republicans in Congress are trying to dodge blame for a paralyzing standoff over immigration and showing few signs of progress on negotiations needed to end a government shutdown.

The finger-pointing played out in both the House and Senate, where lawmakers were eager to show voters they were actively working for a solution — or at least actively making the case the other party was at fault. The scene highlighted political stakes for both parties in an election-year shutdown.

Democrats refused to provide votes needed to reopen government until they strike a deal with President Donald Trump protecting young immigrants from deportation, providing disaster relief and boosting spending for opioid treatment and other domestic programs.

The Senate planned a vote by early Monday on a spending extension.

Saudi to invest $530m in Red Sea desalination plants

Saudi Arabia plans to build nine desalination plants for more than 2 billion riyals ($530 million) on the Red Sea coast, its environment minister said on Sunday.

The plants will have capacity of 240,000 cubic meters of water per day and will be completed in less than 18 months, Abdulrahman al-Fadhli wrote in a Twitter post.

The project, which the minister said was ordered by King Salman in a royal decree, will help government-owned Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corp (SWCC) raise production efficiency and cut operating and capital costs, Fadhli added.

He gave no details on funding.

Saudi Arabia said in 2016 it planned to use public-private partnerships (PPP) with local and foreign companies to fund infrastructure projects.

In August, it said it would develop resorts on about 50 Red Sea islands, completing the first phase of that project – which is backed by its Public Investment Fund (PIF) – in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Airbus to get ’10 years of visibility’ from Emirates deal: CEO

A $16 billion deal with Emirates airline for A380 superjumbos will give Airbus “at least 10 years of visibility”, the European manufacturer’s CEO Tom Enders said in an interview published Sunday.

Emirates announced the deal on Thursday to buy 36 Airbus A380s – just days after the group said it would have to halt production without new orders.

The deal is “excellent news” and “a sign of confidence on the part of a company that has built its strategy on growth around the plane”, Enders told France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

It “gives us at least 10 years of visibility.”

Emirates said it had placed firm orders for 20 of the double-decker aircraft with options for a further 16. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2020.

The airline is already the world’s biggest customer for the A380 with 101 in its fleet and 41 more firm orders previously placed.

Airbus hopes that by continuing the programme for the next 10 years or even beyond, potential customers of the A380 will decide to order the aircraft, especially in China.

The group’s decision in 2007 to pursue the A380, capable of packing in 853 seats, was diametrically opposed to rival Boeing’s bet on the Dreamliner, marketed as a more efficient plane that could be used for both medium and long-distance flights.

But the economics of the four-engine A380 have proved daunting, with airlines having to operate every flight at full capacity in order to make a profit.

Airbus sales director John Leahy had said on Monday that the company would have to halt the A380 programme unless Emirates placed another order.

Enders, 59, told the Airbus board of directors last month that he would not seek reappointment as CEO when his current term ends in April.

Hot back nine sees Fleetwood hold off McIlroy in Abu Dhabi

England’s Tommy Fleetwood successfully defended his title at the $3 million Abu Dhabi Championship Sunday, shooting a seven-under par 65 round to beat compatriot Ross Fisher by two shots.

The 27-year-old Southport resident made the turn at one-under par, but was on fire on the back nine. He made six birdies, including one on the closing 18th hole, to edge Fisher.

The back-nine heroics of Fleetwood, ranked 18th in the world and expected to rise to No10 when the new list is released Monday, included making a 25 feet putt for birdie on the 15th hole to tie for the lead with Fisher, and then a 50-feet birdie putt to take outright lead on the 16th hole.

Fisher (69) started the day in impressive fashion with an eagle on the second hole, courtesy a 45-feet putt, and was four-under at the turn. But on the back nine, he made a bogey on the 10th and a solitary birdie on the 16th hole to finish on 20-under par.

Last year, Fleetwood beat the reigning world No1 Dustin Johnson by one shot, kickstarting a successful season that culminated in him winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnson (70) finished on 14-under par this year, while former world No1 Rory McIlroy shot a 70 to tie for third place at 18-under par alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick (69).

Overnight joint leader Thomas Pieters (72) and winner of last week’s South African Open, England’s Chris Paisley (69) were tied fifth at 17-under 271.

Jordan’s King Abdullah tells Pence of concern over Jerusalem

Arab outrage over President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem had prompted the cancellation of several planned meetings ahead of Pence’s trip, originally scheduled for December.

Abdullah, a key US ally, said he had “continuously voiced over the past year… my concerns regarding the US decision on Jerusalem that does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement to the Palestinian Israeli conflict”.

“Jerusalem is key to Muslims and Christians as it is to Jews,” he added. “It is key to peace in the region. And key to enabling Muslims to effectively fight some of the root causes of radicalisation.”

Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

The US move to recognise the city as Israel’s capital broke with decades of international consensus that the city’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Israelis and Palestinians alike interpreted Trump’s move as Washington taking Israel’s side in the dispute over the city. 

Pence will head to Israel later Sunday for a two-day visit, during which he can expect a warm welcome from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

‘Dangerous and messianic’

Pence – a devout Christian – will visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest Jewish sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, and pay his respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

He will also deliver a speech to Israel’s parliament on Monday. A coalition of Arab parties said Saturday it would boycott the address, calling Pence “dangerous and messianic”.

The US vice president arrived in Jordan on Saturday evening from Egypt, where he met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a key Trump ally.

The leaders of both Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel, would be key players if US mediators ever manage to revive a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as Trump says he wants.

Speaking in Amman Sunday, Pence called Trump’s Jerusalem move a “historic decision” but said the United States respected Jordan’s role as custodian of the city’s holy sites.

“The United States of America remains committed, if the parties agree, to a two-state solution. We are committed to restarting the peace process, and Jordan does now and has always played a central role in facilitating peace in the region,” Pence said.

Abdullah said he was “encouraged” by Trump’s stated commitment to finding a solution to the decades-long conflict, which he called a “potential major source of instability”.

“We hope that the US will reach out and find the right way to move forward in these challenging circumstances,” he said.

Sisi had urged the US president before his Jerusalem declaration “not to complicate the situation in the region by taking measures that jeopardise the chances of peace in the Middle East”.

The international community considers east Jerusalem illegally occupied by Israel and all embassies are currently in commercial capital Tel Aviv.

Pence’s trip has also been overshadowed by the White House’s decision to freeze tens of millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations agency for Palestinians, as well as by a federal government shutdown looming over Washington.

Bahrain arrests 47, charges 290 in mass crackdown

Bahraini police said Sunday they had arrested 47 people on charges linked to terrorism, including plots to assassinate “public figures”, as well as filing charges against another 290.

Authorities have cracked down hard on dissent since mass street protests in 2011 which demanded an elected prime minister and constitutional monarchy in the Sunni-ruled, Shiite majority kingdom. 

The government accuses Shiite Tehran of training “terrorist cells” in the tiny island state, located between rival regional heavyweights Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

Iran denies involvement. 

In a statement released by Bahrain’s police force on Sunday, the interior minister said law enforcement had arrested 49 “terrorist agents” and foiled attacks across the country, including planned killings of “officials and public figures”. 

Police had also transferred the cases of 290 wanted persons and suspects to the public prosecutor’s office, it said. 

The statement did not specify the dates of the arrests but said they were part of “one of the most important preventive operations”, triggered by “attacks on police” and a fire at a Saudi Aramco oil pipeline in Bahrain last year. 

A key US ally and home to the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has drawn harsh criticism from international rights groups over its crackdown on dissent.

Dozens of Bahrainis have been jailed and stripped of citizenship since Arab Spring-inspired protests broke out in 2011. 

Bahrain’s parliament and king last year granted military courts jurisdiction to try civilians charged with “terrorism” — a vaguely defined legal term.

The kingdom has also deported citizens whose nationalities had been revoked.