McConnell sets up votes on Thursday on competing proposals to reopen government
The Senate will take two key votes on Thursday on competing proposals aimed at ending the ongoing government shutdown — one backed by Republicans and the other backed by Democrats and both likely to fail.
One of the votes will be on a proposal backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to fund President Donald Trump’s border wall and reopen shuttered parts of the government. That legislation is in line with an offer the President proposed over the weekend offering temporary protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for a border wall — and which Democrats swiftly rejected as they hold firm in insisting that the government should be reopened before lawmakers proceed to a debate on border security.
The other vote will be on House-passed legislation backed by Democrats to reopen the government without providing new funding for the wall.
Both proposals are expected to fail at this point because either would need 60 votes to advance.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer explained in remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday that lawmakers had reached an agreement to hold the votes.
But despite the announcement, there is still no end in sight to the shutdown stalemate on Capitol Hill as Republicans push for the border funding the President has asked for and Democrats continue to reject that proposal as a non-starter.
In an indication that the House-passed measure will not receive enough bipartisan support to advance, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told CNN on Tuesday that the Senate majority leader is not supporting the House bill that the Senate will vote on Thursday to reopen the government until early February.
Seven Democrats would have to crossover for the GOP bill to pass — Republicans hold 53 Senate seats — and there has been little indication that’s possible.
And 13 Republicans would have to crossover for the Democratic bill to pass, which is also unlikely unless Trump were to reverse course and support the bill.
The decision to allow votes on measures that are not certain to receive the bipartisan support needed to pass Congress and be signed into law by the President marks a shift for McConnell.
In late December, McConnell said on the Senate floor that when negotiations over the shutdown “produce a solution that is acceptable to all parties — which means 60 votes in the Senate, a majority in the House and a presidential signature — at that point, we will take it up on the Senate floor.”
It’s a statement, in one form or another, McConnell had made repeatedly on the Senate floor and in weekly news conferences. But the back and forth last week between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the President, particularly when Pelosi sent a letter to Trump suggesting he move the State of the Union address due to the shutdown, led McConnell to a recognition that Democrats were simply not going to move off their position — and it was time to get involved, two sources familiar with the decision said.
When Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, the White House senior adviser and son-in-law to the President, brought up a proposal for wall money in exchange for temporary protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, McConnell pushed to add more provisions that could entice Democrats, from disaster aid to full year funding measures, one of the sources said. He then sought a public commitment to support the proposal from the President, and once he received it, pledged he would bring the bill to the floor.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders wouldn’t directly say, when asked by CNN, if Trump would veto the plan passed by House Democrats to open the government.
“The President has a proposal on the table. He’s laid out what he would like to see and he’s made that clear time and time again. The real question is why are Democrats not supporting the President’s proposal? It actually is the very thing that they said they want to see happen for a long time on a number of fronts. The President’s the only one in this process that’s trying to help people Democrats claim they care about,” she said, citing provisions in Trump’s proposal for federal workers, DACA recipients, human trafficking and the opioid crisis.
By Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Phil Mattingly, CNN