Senate Leaders Plan Competing Bills to End Shutdown

Senate Leaders Plan Competing Bills to End Shutdown


Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, responded to a bipartisan plan to end the partial government shutdown. He also said the proposal includes disaster aid.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Senate will hold competing votes Thursday on President Trump’s proposal to spend $ 5.7 billion on a border wall and on a Democratic bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8 without a wall, marking the first time the Senate has stepped off the sidelines to try to end the monthlong government shutdown.

The procedural move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is the first time the parties have agreed to do virtually anything since the shutdown began Dec. 22. With most Republicans united behind Mr. Trump’s insistence that any legislation to reopen the government include money for a border wall and most Democrats opposed to the linkage, neither measure might draw the 60 votes required to advance.

That means Friday is likely to come and go without action to end the shutdown, forcing 800,000 federal workers to go without a paycheck for the second time this month.

But there was hope that the votes could usher in a more cooperative phase in a crisis that has so far been marked almost entirely by partisan posturing; if both fall short the votes could add new energy to efforts to negotiate a bipartisan compromise. With the shutdown now in its fifth week, the pressure is growing on parties to reopen the government.

“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?” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday after Mr. McConnell announced the votes. “Well, now there’s a way.”

Still, Mr. Trump remained in a bitter spat with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, over his forthcoming State of the Union address, underlining the partisan divide that has helped to fuel the stalemate. Ms. Pelosi has suggested that the president postpone his prime time speech to a joint session of Congress scheduled for Jan. 29 in light of the partial shutdown, but Mr. Trump does not appear inclined to do so.

A White House official wrote to security officials on Capitol Hill late Sunday requesting a walk-through on Monday to prepare for the speech, in what two aides described as a bid to pressure Ms. Pelosi to issue Mr. Trump a formal invitation. But Monday was a federal holiday, and the meeting never occurred, and there was no word from the speaker on how she planned to proceed.


As the government shutdown drags on, 800,000 federal workers and their families are preparing to miss a paycheck. The Times reached out to some of them to hear their stories.CreditCreditMichael B. Thomas for The New York Times

On Tuesday evening, Ms. Pelosi took another swipe at the president, using the phrase “Trump Shutdown” — which irked Mr. Trump in their televised Oval Office meeting last year — as she implored Republicans to vote for the Democratic-backed spending bill.

“Senate Republicans need to reopen government,” Ms. Pelosi said, “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.”

In the Senate, Mr. Trump’s proposal, which he promoted in a televised address on Saturday as a bipartisan compromise to pair wall funding with temporary legal protections for some immigrants, is facing all but certain death after White House officials conceded privately on Tuesday they had tacked on controversial proposals anathema to Democrats that would block many migrants from seeking asylum.

The Republican legislation, unveiled Monday, night, would provide $ 5.7 billion in wall funding and large spending increases for detention and removal of immigrants as well as 3-year provisional protections for 700,000 of the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, and about 325,000 immigrants mostly from Latin American countries and Haiti who have been living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status.

“The opportunity to end all this is staring us right in the face,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday, calling the president’s proposal “a comprehensive and bipartisan offer.”

“It’s a strong proposal, it’s the only thing on the table, and later this week, we’ll vote on it,” he added.

But the measure also included several changes to asylum law, long advocated by Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser and an architect of his immigration agenda, that would make it more difficult for people to seek refuge in the United States from persecution and violence at home. Among them were provisions to bar Central American children from claiming asylum inside the United States, requiring them instead to do so in their own countries, and allow any them to be quickly sent back to their own countries. Another revision would create a host of new grounds for deeming an asylum claim “frivolous,” including if the migrant seeking protection was also trying to obtain work authorization, had used a fraudulent document — knowingly or unknowingly — or did not file in a timely way.

Mr. Schumer rejected the plan as meant not to forge a compromise but to shift blame away from the president for the shutdown stalemate, calling the asylum changes a “poison pill.”

“The president’s proposal is one-sided, harshly partisan and was made in bad faith,” Mr. Schumer said, adding that the measure was “not a compromise; it’s more hostage-taking.”

A senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to describe internal deliberations said on Tuesday that the asylum provisions were added at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security once it became clear that Democrats were going to oppose Mr. Trump’s original proposal.

But even the provisions ostensibly meant to attract Democratic support for the proposal fell short. While Republicans say the protections are drawn from the Bridge Act, a bipartisan measure, that bill would in fact protect hundreds of thousands more Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children. The Republican proposal would shield only those who applied for and received work permits under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, created by President Barack Obama, which Mr. Trump rescinded in 2017

Federal court decisions have kept DACA in place, and on Tuesday, the Supreme Court again declined the Trump administration’s request to review the legality of the program, almost certainly keeping it in place for the rest of the year. That decision by the court significantly devalued Mr. Trump’s overture to Democrats resisting wall funding.

Mr. Trump unilaterally did away with both DACA and several grants of Temporary Protected Status, leading Mr. Schumer to denounce the legislative proposal to revive them as the price for reopening the government and funding a border wall as “bargaining with stolen goods.”

Even as the Senate planned for high-stakes votes on Thursday, the House was preparing to advance its own pair of proposals starting Wednesday to reopen the government. Democrats scheduled votes on a package of six spending bills negotiated between House and Senate Republicans and Democrats that would include funding for immigration judges and infrastructure improvements at ports of entry. They also planned a vote on a separate stopgap spending bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 28.

The measures are similar to legislation that the House has passed repeatedly over the past few weeks, only to meet with a blockade in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Mr. McConnell has refused to take them up.

A group of centrist House Democrats led by Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia, is urging Ms. Pelosi to go further. In a letter being circulated among Democrats, Ms. Luria called on the speaker to offer Mr. Trump action on his wall demands in exchange for agreement to reopen the government. Under the plan, Ms. Pelosi would guarantee a vote by the end of February on border security spending, as well as immigration proposals, including protections for DACA and TPS recipients.

“We understand that this shutdown was not created by the 116th Congress, but it is our job to fix it,” the letter says. “We promised our constituents that we would seek bipartisan solutions, and we feel that this proposal would gain bipartisan support and allow a transparent process to evaluate the true needs of border security and provide much-needed reform to our immigration process.”

But Mr. Trump rejected a similar proposal by a group of Senate Republicans and Democrats earlier this month, after White House officials said the president was unwilling to drop his demand for wall funding and reopen the government on the mere promise of a freewheeling legislative process that might fail to produce a measure he could sign.


An earlier version of this article misstated the day on which the partial government shutdown began. It was Dec. 22, not Dec. 23.

Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.


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