The Senate will vote on two competing bills Thursday that would end the partial government shutdown — but both are likely to fail.
The move to hold the votes — one backed by Republicans, the other by Democrats — is the first action taken by the Senate to find a solution since the shutdown over funding for Donald Trump’s border wall began on Dec. 22.
But with neither likely to receive the required 60 votes, there’s still no end to the shutdown in sight — nor any sign of a paycheck for 800,000 furloughed federal workers.
One bill, backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, proposes funding of $5.7 billion for the wall along the southern border in exchange for temporary protections for young undocumented immigrants — and reopening closed parts of the government.
The other, backed by Democrats, is legislation already passed by the House to reopen currently shuttered agencies, without funding for Trump’s wall.
McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer announced the deal Tuesday that brings the competing bills to a vote. Speaking on the floor, the Democratic leader said that his party’s proposal “could break us out of the morass we are in.”
“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 debate what we should do for border security later?” said Schumer.
“Well, now there is a way.”
But that view may be overly optimistic. Both votes alone appear unlikely to break the stalemate over the wall. Seven Democrats would have to cross the floor for the Republican-backed bill to pass, while 13 Republicans would have to do the same for the other to pass.
But the move to hold the votes is at least a sign of long-awaited action by the chamber towards resolving the shutdown, now in its fifth week — and could eventually lead to efforts towards strike a compromise.
Previous efforts by the Senate to avert a shutdown have been blocked by Trump, who is insistent on securing the funding for his border wall — a key campaign pledge that has become an overriding focus of his presidency.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not say Tuesday whether Trump planned to veto the Democrats’ plan to reopen the government. Trump reiterated his call for funding the border wall in a series of tweets Wednesday claiming there was "great unity in the Republican Party," which wanted to "once and for all, put an end to stoppable crime and drugs!"
"BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!" he posted. "This is the new theme, for two years until the Wall is finished (under construction now), of the Republican Party. Use it and pray!"
Cover image: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell listens during a news conference following a Senate Republicans policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)