U.S. Congress May be Near to Ending Govt Shutdown

Published January 25th, 2019 - 07:38 GMT
A federal worker stands with a placard reading "Will Work For Pay" as other federal employees stage a rally to call for a vote on the shutdown. (AFP/ File)
A federal worker stands with a placard reading "Will Work For Pay" as other federal employees stage a rally to call for a vote on the shutdown. (AFP/ File)

The Senate will vote on two opposing bills Thursday seeking to reopen the government, but it's uncertain whether either will garner the necessary votes.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer reached an agreement Tuesday to vote on the two bills, one of which seeks to end the impasse at the center of the shutdown by providing $5.7 billion in funding for a physical barrier at the border in exchange for protection for some undocumented immigrants. The other offers only temporary funding to reopen the government, so the immigration issue can be more thoroughly examined.

Both measures amend the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019 and would provide funding to a quarter of government agencies that have been closed for more than a month, returning 800,000 federal employees to paid work. That bill was passed by the Democrat-controlled House on Jan. 16, by a vote of 237-187.

The Senate will first vote on McConnell's bill to fully fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. If it fails, the chamber will then turn to vote on Schumer's measure, which is a short-term fix.

McConnell's bill

McConnell introduced a bill based on President Donald Trump's proposal to reopen the government by offering protections for about 1 million undocumented immigrants in exchange for funds for the border wall.

"The Senate will vote on the plan put forward by President Trump to reopen the closed portions of the federal government right away, increase security on our southern border, deliver disaster recovery funding and address some outstanding immigration issues," McConnell said.

The bill would fund the government through Sept. 30 while also providing $12.7 billion in hurricane and wildfire disaster relief. It would also extend the Violence Against Women Act, which expired at the start of the shutdown, through Sept. 30.

In an attempt to compromise with Democrats, the bill also includes a three-year delay on Trump's move to end protection for 700,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and 310,000 Temporary Protected Status holders.

In exchange, the bill provides nearly $6 billion for a wall along 215 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. It also provides $800 million for urgent humanitarian assistance, $805 million for drug detection technology, and money to pay for 2,750 new border agents and 75 new immigration judges.

It also includes changes to rules and requires minor children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to apply for U.S. asylum from their home countries, rather than at the U.S. border. It also limits children able to qualify for the asylum program at 15,000 per year.

Schumer's bill

Schumer described his bill as "essentially identical" to the one passed by the House earlier this month and ignored by the Senate.

"The president's proposal demands a wall and radical legal immigration changes in exchange for opening up the government," Schumer said. "[My bill] demands nothing in exchange for opening up the government."

The measure would give funding to reopen the government agencies for three weeks, until Feb. 8 -- giving Congress more time to fully weigh security issues. It also provides $14 billion in unrelated disaster-relief funding for hurricanes, wildfires and other incidents.

As he said, his bill does not earmark any money for border security -- meaning it doesn't pay for a wall, more border agents, judges or technology. It also doesn't directly address the DACA or Temporary Protected Status programs, although both are likely to remain in place for at least several months due to existing orders by federal judges.

Ultimately, there are no immigration-related procedures in Schumer's bill at all, leaving U.S. asylum rules unchanged.

Will either bill pass?

Either measure would require 60 votes to pass the Senate, where Republicans control 53 seats to Democrats' 47. Most experts and observers think passage for either measure is unlikely.

McConnell hailed the president's proposal as a "bold, comprehensive offer," adding it's "the only proposal that can be signed by the president and immediately reopen the government."

"Enough political spite. Enough showboating for 'the Resistance.' The President has produced a fair compromise that pairs full-year government funding with immigration policy priorities from both sides. It's time to make a deal," McConnell wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

Democrats, however, are holding firm in their resolve to oppose paying billions toward a border wall. If McConnell's bill is passed by the Senate, it would have to survive a more difficult vote in the Democrat-controlled House.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Schumer said the resident's proposal was going "nowhere fast" and was not made in good faith, as he said Trump was responsible for killing the programs he is now offering to extend.

"The president single-handedly canceled DACA and TPS protections," Schumer said. "Now offering some temporary protections in exchange for the wall is not a compromise, it's more hostage taking."

Some Republicans have expressed support for a stopgap bill like Schumer's to reopen the government -- but even if the short-term version succeeds, it will find resistance on Trump's desk. The president has already said he won't approve any bill that doesn't include money for a wall.

"Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S. The Dems know this but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly. No Cave!"

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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