In its first significant involvement over the Trump Shutdown since the Federal Government closed on December 21, the Senate will consider competing bills on Thursday.
Just before the closure, the Senate unanimously passed a continuing resolution to fund nine Government agencies. The measure had $1.3 billion for border security, but Donald Trump rejected it, demanding $5.7 billion for his Wall with Mexico.
The House of Representatives, now with a Democrat majority, adopted a similar measure on January 3; however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow its consideration by the upper chamber.
On Thursday, McConnell will introduce a bill based on Trump’s Saturday speech, funding The Wall in return for the limited restoration of immigrant protections which Trump tried to remove last year. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will offer a resolution funding the Government through February 8, but excluding any Wall money.
With McConnell whipping Republicans against any Democrat-led reopening of the Government and with Democrats opposed to any Wall funding, neither measure is expected to obtain the 60 votes required to advance.
The GOP currently has a 53-47 majority in the Senate.
On Friday, about 800,000 federal workers will miss their second paycheck. Schumer said on the Senate floor yesterday:
People are saying, isn’t there a way out of this mess? Isn’t there a way to relieve the burden on the 800,000 federal workers not getting paid? Isn’t there a way to get government services open first and then debate what we should do for border security?.
Well, now there’s a way.
White House officials conceded privately that the McConnell measure has no hope of passage, because of provisions added by hardline anti-immigration advisor Stephen Miller.
McConnell hoped to get Democrat support by adding $12.7 billion in disaster aid and an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, a measure that expired in 2018 when government funding lapsed.
But Miller’s clauses sharply restrict asylum. They bar Central American children from claiming asylum inside the US, requiring them instead to do so in their own countries — even though children and their families are often trying to flee because of violence. The children can quickly be sent back to the home countries, and there are a series of conditions to declare an asylum claim “frivolous”.
The Republican proposal also narrows the restoration of protections to “Dreamer” immigrants, about 800,000 who came to the US as children with undocumented parents.
Only those who applied for and received work permits under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — the program created by President Barack Obama that Trump tried to end in March 2018 — can receive three years of protection. Additional requirements include an annual income threshold.
Federal court decisions have kept DACA in place. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s request to review the legality of the program.
White House Tries to Restore Trump’s State of the Union
But the White House is showing no sign of compromise to end the record-setting, 33-day shutdown. Instead, its concern was on trying to restore Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress next week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that, because of security issues raised by the shutdown, Trump should deliver his speech from the Oval Office or in writing.
A White House official wrote to Capitol Hill security officials late Sunday, asking for a preparatory walk-through. But Monday was a federal holiday and the meeting never occurred.
White House aides are now preparing two different speeches, one for a venue away from the Capitol. But Trump is reportedly averse to an Oval Office address, since a brief statement earlier this month fared badly. Aides are considering a rally appearance outside Washington, but worry that this would not be distinct from Trump’s regular campaign-style appearances before favorable crowds.
Pelosi said yesterday, “On Thursday, the Senate will have the opportunity to put a bipartisan bill on the president’s desk to reopen government and end this senseless shutdown.”