Politics

Dueling Senate bills are set to fail as the record-long government shutdown hits its 34th day

Key Points
  • The Senate will vote Thursday on two different plans to reopen the government, but both are expected to fail.
  • One reflects President Trump's offer to fund the government, the other would temporarily reopen operations without money for the president's proposed border wall.
  • It is unclear what plan could get enough support from Republicans and Democrats to fund the government.
The U.S. Capitol is pictured on day 32 of a partial government shutdown as becomes the longest in U.S. history in Washington, January 22, 2019.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

The Senate will vote Thursday on two bills to end the longest government shutdown ever as pain caused by the 34-day closure sharpens.

The clashing Republican and Democratic plans are expected to fall short of the needed 60 votes. The White House and Congress have struggled to find common ground as President Donald Trump demands $5.7 billion for his proposed border wall and Democrats refuse to fund it.

The GOP-held Senate will vote on whether to advance a bill reflecting Trump's offer to fund the government. It pairs money for the barrier with three-year extensions of legal protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and people fleeing crises in certain countries, among other provisions.

Republicans likely will not get the seven Democratic votes needed to pass it, as the minority party has called the limited protections for "Dreamer" migrants inadequate. The Democratic alternative is not expected to fare much better in the Senate. The party's bill would fund the government through Feb. 8 while lawmakers work on a broader immigration deal. Both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell oppose the plan.

On Wednesday, McConnell called the GOP proposal a "fair compromise." He said "it's time to make a deal."

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Federal workers face second round of missed paychecks on Friday

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that Trump's offer is "one-sided, harshly partisan and made in bad faith." He has pointed out that Trump tried to end the very legal protections for immigrants that he now seeks to extend. Democrats have repeatedly urged McConnell to take up measures passed by the Democratic-held House to fund the government without border wall money.

The votes to reopen the government Thursday come at a critical time. On Friday, about 800,000 federal workers will start to miss their second paychecks since funding for a quarter of the government lapsed Dec. 22.

The lost payments have left thousands scrambling to cover meals and bills. As the nine unfunded federal departments furlough some workers and ask others to work without pay, the shutdown is affecting services from airports to FBI investigations and food safety inspections. The longer the closure lasts, the more it chips away at U.S. economic growth.

Polls show most Americans view the shutdown as a "crisis" or at least a "problem." They largely blame Trump for it. As Americans seek a way out, more of them would rather see the president give ground than congressional Democrats, according to a CBS News poll.

The impasse has also become a broader reflection of governing dysfunction in Washington. On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to block Trump from giving his State of the Union address in the House chamber until the shutdown ends. The president yielded, saying late Wednesday that he will give the speech when the closure is over rather than find a different venue.

On Thursday, Pelosi contended "there's no excuse for Senate Republicans not to pass this legislation." She said "let's have [the border security] discussion after we open up the government." 

Trump has so far insisted he will not give ground on the border wall. He even floated a new rallying cry on Wednesday: "BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!"

It is unclear what proposal could get enough support from both Republicans and Democrats, or what level of pain for Americans harmed by the shutdown would cause them to yield. Several Republican senators have voiced support for temporarily reopening the government while immigration talks continue. But it is unlikely enough senators will defect to allow a bill to pass without Trump's support.

Congress has canceled a planned recess next week as the shutdown lingers. Meanwhile, some senators have called for lawmakers to stay in Washington over the weekend as they try to reach an agreement.

Multiple reports have said Democrats are expected to offer Trump a plan with $5.7 billion or more in border security money. The funding could go toward technology, rebuilding existing border fences or other measures — not the wall as the president proposes it.

On Thursday, Pelosi said "that's not true" that Democrats are preparing a counteroffer. She said the party plans to address border security provisions in a $49 billion Homeland Security appropriations bills. 

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