This story was updated Jan. 25, 2019, at 6:34 p.m.
NASHVILLE — U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., welcomed President Donald Trump's agreement Friday with congressional leaders to temporarily reopen the federal government as talks continue with Democrats on his demands for money to pay for a wall on the border with Mexico.
Trump's announcement came as the president was encountering increasing pressure and public opinion running against his move to leave a quarter of the federal government unfunded. It drew massive news coverage of the impact on government services and of the estimated 800,000 federal workers impacted by the partial government shutdown.
Alexander, who on Thursday voted for a Democratic-backed funding bill to end the nation's longest shutdown in history, as well as a Republican bill backing the president, said "This is exactly what I voted twice to do yesterday: open the government.
"Now it is time for Congress to go to work and produce a bill that includes a comprehensive approach to border security including physical barriers where appropriate," Alexander said in a statement. "That's what we did for the last four presidents when 654 miles of physical barrier on the 1,954-mile border were approved by Congress on a bipartisan basis and that's what we should do working with President Trump."
Isakson, who also voted for both bills, said "I'm glad the leadership of the House and the president have come to an agreement and hope that we can now sit down and negotiate in earnest to secure our border and get the government back in operating order."
The GOP-backed measure to fund Trump's border wall offered limited legal protections for some immigrants. It failed in a 50-47 vote.
Democrats' bill sought to reopen the government without funding for Trump's border wall. The president had threatened to veto it. But it wound up getting more votes than the GOP bill, with Alexander, Isakson and four other Republicans voting for it.
Friday was the shutdown's 35th day and there were increasing concerns about the nation's air safety and other issues.
Senators passed the bill by voice vote to re-open the federal government through Feb. 15. It includes no money for the president's "wall." During the debate, the $5.7 billion demanded by Trump for the wall morphed to include steel-slat barriers and high-tech surveillance.
The House is expected to quickly approve the bill, sending it to the president's desk.
Freshman U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who made building the wall and criticism of a Central American caravan of migrants trying to enter the U.S. as refugees a centerpiece in the final weeks of her 2018 campaign, offered a muted statement on Trump's action.
"While this action solves the immediate problem of funding the back pay of 800,000 federal workers, it does not address the urgent need to end the humanitarian crisis on our southern border," she said. "It does not end the illegal flow of drugs, gangs and human traffickers."
Blackburn also emphasized her view that "Congress' work on this issue is far from over. I will continue to support our border patrol and their three essential needs: a border barrier, additional technology and more officers and agents on the border."
She also said she backs ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy put into effect by former Democratic President Barack Obama that allowed children brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and also the possibility of being eligible for a work permit in the U.S.
"I also support ending the DACA program, chain migration and the visa lottery system," Blackburn said.
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said the bipartisan solution "will reopen the government while border security negotiations continue. There is still a national security crisis at our southern border, and President Trump is right to address it. I applaud the President for his continued forthright efforts to enter into good faith negotiations with House and Senate Democrats."
Perdue said many Democrats in the past supported and voted for border security in the past, "but throughout this process they've clearly demonstrated they want to keep immigration as a political issue, and not find a real solution.
"If Democrats refuse to work with us to tackle this national priority over the next few weeks, President Trump will do what is necessary to protect America," Perdue added. "Ultimately, this situation only underscores the dysfunction in Washington's funding process. These conversations should have been completed last year, not four months into the current fiscal year."
Blackburn and Perdue voted only for the GOP bill on Thursday.
While many are interpreting Trump's agreement as a setback, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., tweeted that the "President's strong stance finally brought Democrats to negotiating table.
"Nancy Pelosi and others have recognized humanitarian, drug crisis at border and are willing to reform bad laws endangering lives. Three weeks to settle on real improvements, avoid potential shutdown," the South Pittsburg congressman stated.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., who also supported Trump on the wall funding, charged in a tweet that "for weeks, Democrats have refused to address the crisis at our #southernborder until our government was re-opened.
"Now that our government has been re-opened, I call on Democratic Leadership to make good on their word, come to the negotiating table & work w/ @POTUS & Republicans," the Ooltewah congressman added.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., tweeted that "it's good the government will reopen so people can get paid and back to work. But Congress still has a job to do to make sure this doesn't happen again in three weeks. We need to find a sensible solution so that shutdowns never happen. #NoBudgetNoPay."
The partial government shutdown — the longest shutdown in U.S. history — impacted 800,000 federal workers and contractors. An estimated 380,000 employees were furloughed.
But 420,000 deemed "essential" were required to work without pay. Friday marked their second pay day receiving checks for $0. The essential employee list included airport transportation security personnel, air traffic controllers, IRS workers, FBI agents the U.S. Coast Guard and others.
An estimated 6,700 to 7,300 federal workers in Tennessee were impacted, according to estimates. There are a total of about 25,000 federal employees in Tennessee.
Air traffic controllers and TSA workers warned the shutdown was impacting safety and security.
That became a national concern, especially at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest facility in the U.S., which was expected to undergo further burdens with this year's Super Bowl being held in the city.
The president and Republicans began losing support for the shutdown, according to polling, with newspapers and television news showing the impact on employees across the country being given help by food banks and similar types of help.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.