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As shutdown persists, McConnell and Senate GOP remain on the sidelines

The number of votes the Republican-led Senate has held to end the shutdown, at least so far, is zero.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016.

Donald Trump argued over the weekend that congressional Democrats should return to Capitol Hill "and work to end the Shutdown." It followed related remarks the president made on Friday, in which he said Democratic lawmakers should "come back and vote."

I suppose the message that the public is supposed to believe -- after this and a series of related missives Trump either published or re-tweeted -- is that the Democratic-led House just isn't doing enough work to resolve the shutdown the president created more than three weeks ago.

It's an odd argument for a couple of reasons. The first is that House Dems, immediately after taking the reins in the chamber, started passing measures that would re-open the government and end the shutdown. So far, each of the bills has passed with at least some bipartisan support, and the measures mirror the proposals Republicans -- including the president -- supported as recently as Dec. 19, which is less than a month ago.

The idea that Democrats are just sitting passively, uninterested in resolving the problem, is belied by their obvious legislative record. Trump wants Dems to "come back and vote," despite the fact that they've already done this.

The second angle dovetails nicely with the first: it's the Republican-led Senate that's sitting on its hands. The Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz explained the other day:

President Trump is not the only person in Washington who could end this government shutdown now.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could bring a "clean" funding bill to the floor, free up his GOP caucus to support it and could quite possibly secure enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Since the start of the new Congress, the Democratic-led House has voted four times on measures that would re-open all or some of the federal government. The number of votes in the Republican-led Senate, at least so far, is zero -- and that's not because of filibusters, but rather, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't brought any bills related to the shutdown to the floor.

The GOP leader's argument has been that there's simply no point in passing bills the president opposes. I disagree. For one thing, Trump has been known to change his mind for mercurial and unpredictable reasons. Put a bill in front of him that would end the shutdown and Trump might feel compelled to sign it, even if he says otherwise.

For another, as McConnell may recall, the Constitution offers lawmakers a tool known as a "veto override."

All the Kentucky Republican, who's maintaining an alarmingly low profile as the fight drags on, has to do is stop pretending that Trump is his boss, and take the same position McConnell held four weeks ago.