POLITICS

Competing Bills To End The Shutdown Set For Senate Votes, But Unlikely To Pass

The measures may give senators some political cover, but offer little hope for reopening the government.

WASHINGTON ― The Senate is set to vote later this week on dueling measures that would reopen the government: one put forth by Republicans, the other by Democrats.

Both proposals are almost certain to fall short of the necessary 60-vote threshold to advance, likely guaranteeing that the partial but costly government shutdown will continue for at least another week barring an unexpected breakthrough.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday announced an agreement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for a Thursday vote on a bill that includes $5.7 billion for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the southern border, as well as the temporary deportation relief Trump has proposed for some immigrants and refugees. The bill, which also calls for major changes the would restrict asylum laws for Central American minors, is likely to get little or no Democratic support. 

Under the McConnell-Schumer deal, the Senate will also vote Thursday on a House-passed bill that would provide funding to re-open all parts of the government until Feb. 8 while congressional leaders and Trump focus on trying to reach an accord on border security issues. This measure is unlikely to get enough Republican support because it does not include funding for Trump’s border wall, which as a candidate he promised Mexico would pay for.

Only 10 GOP senators signed a bipartisan letter earlier this month calling on Trump to reopen the government with a similar short-term measure while negotiations over the border issues proceed. That’s short of the 13 Republicans needed to advance the measure, assuming all 47 members of the Senate Democratic caucus support it. The GOP’s Senate leadership actively lobbied members against signing the letter.

The purpose of Thursday’s showdown may be more political than practical ― Anxious senators up for re-election in 2020 on both sides of the aisle would be able to tell constituents and federal workers they voted to re-open the government. 

McConnell in a Tuesday floor speech urged Democrats to “put country over party” and “take yes for an answer” by accepting Trump’s offer, which the president announced over the weekend in a speech at the White House. McConnell called it the “only proposal currently before us that can be signed by the president and immediately re-open the government.”

Schumer, meanwhile, slammed Trump’s proposal as “one-sided” and “harshly partisan,” adding in his floor speech that no Democrats were involved in discussions over it. He called the proposed changes to asylum law in the bill a “poison pill,” and said the measure is “going nowhere fast.”

The competing rhetoric that had little chance of resolving the shutdown that began on Dec. 22 occurred as some furloughed federal workers lined up at a food bank in downtown Washington, just blocks from the White House. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) compared that scene to something out of the Great Depression.

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