Senate leader Mitch McConnell has finally gotten back to work, and the government shutdown could be over by the end of the week. As we noted before, our system is designed to have the House and Senate write laws. They did so and were ready to prevent a shutdown, but then, Donald Trump stepped in and said he wouldn’t sign it. That’s when McConnell said, fine, try to do it without me.
However, now, the Wall Street Journal reports that “dueling bills” will come to the Senate floor.
The chamber will vote Thursday on rival proposals by President Trump and congressional Democrats to end the shutdown. The votes will come one day before hundreds of thousands of federal employees will miss their second paycheck Friday.
Democratic leaders oppose Mr. Trump’s proposal, which combines $5.7 billion to build steel barriers along the border with Mexico, temporary protections for some immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and other changes to the immigration system, while reopening the rest of the government. It is unlikely to secure more than a couple of Democratic votes in the Senate, where the GOP holds a 53-47 majority.
But Democrats’ measure, which would fund the government through Feb. 8, sets up a tough vote for Senate Republicans, many of whom have talked about reopening the government. It was too early to tell Tuesday if the measure would secure the 13 Republicans it would need to clear procedural hurdles, assuming that all members of the Democratic caucus support it.
Some GOP aides were skeptical Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would agree to bring it to the floor unless he was confident he had the votes to block it. Until this week, Mr. McConnell had refused to bring up any legislation that didn’t have the support of both Mr. Trump and enough Democrats to become law, saying doing so would be a waste of time.
That’s a major flip-flop for McConnell. He previously said he wouldn’t bring any bill to the floor unless he knew it would pass. Now GOP aides say he won’t bring the “clean” bill to the floor to open the government unless he’s sure it would fail.
It’s all about strategy. If McConnell were smart, he’d get with Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, and arrange to have both bills pass. Then, McConnell could say that he did everything he could to reopen the government.
Then, of course, the House would toss Trump’s plan and move on. The “clean bill” the Senate will vote on is the one sent vrom the House. but the funding extension is only good till February 8, just about two weeks. But it would give time for McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to come up with more long-term funding that includes some kind of face-saving wall funding for Trump. Democrats would prefer a funding bill and a separate compromise bill on the wall.
It’s clear that Democrats don’t want Trump’s plan, mainly because it’s “Trump’s plan.” They’re angry that they had an agreement with McConnell to keep the government running, and Trump, who had agreed to that plan, suddenly change his mind, bending to conservative talk show hosts.
But if Trump thinks he can placate the rightwing talking heads, he’s mistaken. Even the plan Trump has proposed has been pilloried by the likes of Fox’s Laura Ingraham, according to The Blaze.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham blasted the immigration compromise bill that members of Congress reached on Thursday, saying that the president should reject it out of hand for being too weak on immigration enforcement.
Of course, the shutdown is not a totally partisan issue. According to the Washington Times, Minnesota’s Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson says, “Give Trump the wall money.”
The Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture Committee says he would favor giving President Trump money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall as a way out of the government shutdown if there are “strings” attached to make sure the money is spent properly.
“I’m a committee chairman — so I’m in the room with the other leadership,” Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota said in an interview with KFGO radio posted online Tuesday. “And I told them, you guys are making a mistake. Give Trump the money…I’d give him the whole thing that he wants and put strings on it so that you make sure that he puts the wall where it needs to be.”
But it’s, for the most part, a partisan issue. Republicans want a wall. Democrats don’t want to give Trump his wall. That is, unless it comes from Congress. To Democrats, this is about Congress controlling the purse strings.
So what are the options?
• McConnell could refuse to bring the Democratic House bill to the floor. If that happens, it assures that Trump’s bill will be filibustered.
• McConnell could allow both bills to go to the floor. Republicans could refuse to pass the Democratic bill, and Democrats could filibuster Trump’s bill.
• McConnell could work out a deal with Schumer, and both bills could go to the floor. The Democratic bill would still need some Republican support to pass. In that case, Trump’s bill would pass the Senate, but die in the House.
• Both bills could pass the Senate, and the Democratic bill, w;hich originated in the House, would go directly to Trump for his signature. and Trump’s bill would die a quick death there.
• If the Democratic bill passes both Houses, Trump could simply veto it, bringing us back to square one—and he, personally, would take all the blame.
• If the Democratic bill passes both Houses, and Trump signs it, the government would take several days to reopen—and then there could be another shutdown in two weeks.
Democrats have said all along that they’d be willing to negotiate about Trump’s wall, but only if the government is reopened. Reopening the doors for two weeks should be enough time to come up with a separate bill to settle the wall issue. And this whole mess will be forgotten long before the first presidential primary, next year.