GOP Plan to End Shutdown Fails in Senate
A Republican plan to end the partial government shutdown failed Thursday in the Senate and one put forward by Democrats faced dim prospects.
The GOP plan, supported by President Donald Trump, would have given him the money to build his border wall but did not get the votes required to advance in the Senate.
Next up was a Democratic bill that would reopen federal agencies through Feb. 8 while bargainers seek a budget accord, an approach that GOP leaders tried last month — only to be undercut by Trump. It contained no money to build the wall.
If that failed as well, lawmakers hoped that twin defeats might spur the two sides into a more serious effort to strike a compromise. Almost every proposal needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate, which is under 53-47 Republican control.
The Republican legislation would have also provided three years of continued protection against deportation for 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Also Thursday, the House passed the latest in a series of measures aimed at reopening the government with a 231-180 vote to open the Homeland Security Department. It was the 11th attempt to pass a bill ending the shutdown.
Push to compromise
With the impacts of the shutdown becoming increasingly painful, however, lawmakers on both sides were trumpeting their willingness to compromise in the battle over border security and immigration issues.
"It's clear what the president wants," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "It's clear what we want. If you have a negotiation, both parties are going to put on the table what they want." He added: "By definition, a successful negotiation gets to a place where both sides feel they got something, right?"
"We can work this out," said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
Simply starting the negotiations has been the initial problem. Democrats insist on opening the government first rather than reward Trump's tactics, while Republicans warn that immediately reopening the government would give Democrats too much leverage in any talks.
Trump's ex-chief of staff, John Kelly, joined the four other former Homeland Security secretaries in signing a letter urging Trump and his Democratic rivals to end the shutdown.
'Rolling the dice' on safety
At a panel discussion held by House Democrats on the effects of the shutdown, union leaders and former Homeland Security officials said they worried about the long-term effects. "I fear we are rolling the dice," said Tim Manning, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official. "We will be lucky to get everybody back on the job without a crisis to respond to."
The partial shutdown began just before Christmas after Trump indicated that he wouldn't sign a stopgap spending bill backed by top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who shepherded a bill through the Senate that would have funded the government up to Feb. 8. The House passed a plan with money for the wall as one of the last gasps of the eight-year GOP majority.
On Thursday, almost five weeks later, House Democrats continued work on a package that would ignore Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a wall with Mexico and would instead pay for other ideas aimed at protecting the border.
Details of Democrats' border security plan and its cost remained a work in progress. Party leaders said it would include money for scanning devices and other technological tools for improving security at ports of entry and along the border, plus money for more border agents and immigration judges.
A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was the latest indicator that the shutdown is hurting Trump with the general public. While his approval among Republicans remains strong, just 34 percent of Americans like his performance as president and 6 in 10 assign a great deal of responsibility to him for the shutdown, about double the share blaming Democrats, according to the poll out Wednesday.
The Senate GOP bill would have temporarily shielded from deportation 700,000 young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children — a protection Trump has tried terminating. Trump has also offered temporary protections for people who fled violence or natural disasters in several countries — another program the president has curtailed.
With Democrats eager to show they're trying to end the impasse, the House used mostly party-line votes Wednesday to approve one measure that seeks to reopen government agencies through February. By a similar tally, the chamber voted for another measure that would finance most shuttered agencies through September.
Growing numbers of House Democrats say the party should show where it stands on border security.
"Right now it's a vacuum and the president is offering fake plans to stop drug smuggling," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. Offering a Democratic alternative "helps the possibility of beginning a real negotiation," he said.