National Security

Senate Prepares to Vote on Competing Shutdown Bills

President Donald Trump inspired one of these measures with a compromise he offered over the weekend

Image Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/Shutterstock/Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Senators are expected to vote on Thursday on two competing bills to end the government shutdown; one of them contains border wall funding, as the other does not.

The bills are both intended to end the partial government shutdown which began December 22.

Senate Republicans are pushing for a bill that would exchange border wall funding for deportation protections that cover the immigrant group known as dreamers. Democrats are instead hoping to pass a temporary spending bill without any border wall funding.

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House Democrats already passed a bill that would temporarily fund the government through February 8.

President Donald Trump inspired the other bill with a compromise he offered during a speech on January 19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday scheduled the competing bills to come up for a vote.

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“The Senate will vote tomorrow on the plan put forth by President Trump to reopen the closed portions of the federal government right away,” McConnell said from the floor on Wednesday. “This is a compromise measure that was carefully designed to include the kinds of ideas Democrats have been eager to support, including very recently.”

Related: McConnell Announces Bill to Reopen Gov’t with Border Wall Funding

McConnell added that the bill isn’t ideal for either side, since it is a compromise; but it’s strong and includes priorities both parties want, he said. He pointed to protections for dreamers, disaster aid for victims of storms last year, and an extension of the Violence Against Women Act.

Some critics, however, have taken issue with a provision they say weakens longstanding protections for asylum seekers.

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“First and foremost, the legislation would end this partial shutdown and bring all parts of the federal government back online,” McConnell said. “The bill also takes a compromise approach to the underlying disagreement that brought us to this point. It would fully fund the border security priorities identified by the men and women actually working on the ground.”

The Senate is unlikely to pass these bills, since it would need 60 votes to do so, which neither side appears to have. But it will be the first major legislative move by senators to end the shutdown since it began over a month ago. The Democratic bill would also likely be vetoed if it did advance to the president for signature, since it doesn’t include border wall funding.

Trump has refused to sign any spending bills that don’t include $5.7 billion for the border security wall. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have said they are unwilling to negotiate border wall funding until the shutdown is over. The two sides have made little progress thus far in overcoming that impasse.

“There is no excuse for Senate Republicans not to pass this legislation, which contains the funding proposal that they have already supported,” Pelosi said in a statement on Tuesday. “Senate Republicans need to reopen government, not continue their complicity in the Trump shutdown with a vote for the president’s unacceptable border and immigration schemes that only increase the chaos and suffering at the border.”

Trump announced his compromise offer during a speech at the White House. McConnell indicated soon afterward that he would bring up the compromise in a bill. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) released a draft of the proposal a few days later.

Democrats were quick to reject the offer.

The dreamers are individuals who were brought into this country illegally by adults when they were only minors. They are named for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Former President Barack Obama provided protections for them through an executive action that established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Related: Trump Still Not Willing to Cave on Border Wall Amid Longest Shutdown

Trump has previously called the program unconstitutional, while also expressing sympathy for the immigrants it’s been meant to protect. He has argued that lawmakers should instead approve a permanent fix for the issue in a bill. He later stated the bill should include border wall funding along with the end of chain migration and the draft lottery program.

Trump and congressional leaders of both parties have continued discussions to overcome the stalemate. But the two sides so far have been unable to overcome differences. Trump has repeatedly noted security concerns and a need for the border wall.

House Democrats have made other attempts to end the shutdown. They passed two bills intended to fund most of the government while leaving room to debate border security. They later passed four separate appropriations bills.

The House Democratic bills are unlikely to get far without border wall funding, with the president threatening to use his veto powers. McConnell had also said he wouldn’t bring up any bills the president wasn’t willing to sign. He had made an earlier attempt to avert the government shutdown with a short-term spending bill.

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