The majority-GOP Senate is poised to vote on two competing bills Thursday, both aimed at re-opening the federal government as the shutdown rolls into its 34th day.
One, backed primarily by Democrats, would re-open all shuttered federal government offices through February 6 but would provide no funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a sticking point with many Republicans.
The other, spearheaded by Trump and backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would allocate $5.7 billion for the wall while extending protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and certain immigrants with designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for just three years.
Neither bill is likely to receive enough votes to resolve the month-long impasse.
Three-week continuing resolution
Wednesday afternoon, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a package of six appropriations bills that would fund the government through February 6 and allow federal workers to collect back pay, while providing zero funding for the border wall. The bill was introduced by Democratic leadership and is not supported by Trump or the majority of Republicans who support the wall.
Some Republican senators, like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME), have signaled they will support the continuing resolution. Collins, however, also said she would vote for the Trump-backed bill.
“The shutdown is so extraordinarily unfair,” she told reporters Wednesday. “I’ll vote yes and yes.”
It’s worth mentioning that both Gardner and Collins are both vulnerable Republicans who represent states that are slowly shifting blue.
A Trump-McConnell, anti-immigrant “compromise”
McConnell, who previously vowed to not “waste time” by letting the Senate pass bills that don’t stand a chance of becoming law under President Trump, is championing a DREAMers-for-a-Wall bill. Already, immigration advocates and Democrats on Capitol Hill have derided the legislation as a sham.
The bill provides so-called DREAMers — undocumented individuals brought to the country as minors — with continued deportation protections for three years. Trump previously attempted to scrap the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that granted some of these DREAMers protective status, but several court rulings have since blocked that decision.
In addition to being a temporary response to a crisis the Trump administration created, the proposal makes drastic changes to the U.S. asylum process. Under the bill, only 50,000 underage Central American migrant children would be able to apply for asylum each year, and of those, only 15,000 applications would be granted. This new procedure would also require that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), not immigration judges, grant asylum “consistent with the national interest,” making it even more difficult to receive asylum protections.
The bill would also introduce a host of obstacles for asylum seekers, including new grounds for deeming a claim “frivolous.”
A separate provision of the bill would allow federal immigration authorities to quickly remove Central American minors seeking asylum in the United States by making changes to an anti-child-trafficking bill. Some immigration experts believe the move would violate international law by preventing individuals from applying for asylum, an entirely legal act.
Despite support from Republican party leaders, the votes are not in McConnell’s favor on Thursday. All 53 Republicans and seven Democrats would need to vote in favor of the bill. So far, only three Democrats have signaled they might support it.
Since the government shutdown began on December 21, nearly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay. On Friday, more than 600,000 of them will receive paystubs reading “$0,” for the second pay-period in a row.
As a result, many workers have begun turning to food banks and part-time gigs, such as providing ride-share services, to make ends meet. Others say they’ve begun considering taking out emergency loans or seeking work elsewhere, in the event Congress is unable to reach an agreement and the shutdown continues into February.
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