This week: Congress heading in opposite directions on shutdown plans
© Getty Images

The House and Senate are heading in opposite directions as the partial government shutdown crosses the one-month mark.

Lawmakers will take up competing plans this week to reopen the government, neither of which has enough support to pass both chambers, garner President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE’s signature and end the stalemated funding fight.

The dueling votes come after Trump made a new offer over the weekend asking for $5.7 billion for the wall in exchange for a three-year extension of protected status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3 year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else,” Trump said in a string of tweets defending his plan.

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) immediately announced that he would bring up the president’s plan, tucked into legislation to fully reopen the government, this week, despite saying as recently as last week that only a bill backed by both Trump and congressional Democrats would be given a vote.

“I intend to move to this legislation this week. With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well,” McConnell said in a statement.  

But Trump’s proposal can’t get 60 votes in the Senate, which would require winning over at least seven Democrats as well as getting unanimous support from the chamber’s 53 Republicans. Democrats — including more centrist members whom Republicans would need to flip — have argued that the president and McConnell have to fully reopen the government before negotiating on border security.

Trump “single-handedly took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place — offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y).

Democrats were not consulted as the White House was drafting its plan, according to two aides, who both noted that party members had previously rejected similar offers.

A previous, broader Trump-proposed bill that would have traded a path to citizenship for roughly 1.8 million immigrants in exchange for $25 billion for border security, tougher interior enforcement and new limits on legal immigration garnered only 39 votes in the Senate, including three Democratic senators.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-W.Va.), the only one of those Democratic senators who is still in office, threaded a needle with his reaction to Trump’s latest proposal and didn’t specifically say how he would vote.

“I'm hopeful the President's statement tonight will allow us to immediately reopen gov, put WVians back to work & start negotiating long-term immigration reform. I look forward to working w/my GOP & Dem colleagues to make this happen so that we can end this shameful shutdown,” Manchin tweeted.

ADVERTISEMENT
Some GOP senators suggested they saw Trump’s proposal as an attempt to restart negotiations with congressional leadership, which have been at a standstill for nearly two weeks, rather than a take-it-or-leave it offer.

“Put out a straw man proposal. Get something out there the president can say, ‘I can support this’ — and has elements from both sides. Put it on the table, then open it up for debate,” Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE (R-Okla.) told ABC’s “This Week.”

He added that the Senate’s vote this week was not about passing a bill but about trying to start a debate and “open [it] up and say: ‘Can we debate this? Can we amend it? Can we make changes?’ ”

In a call with House GOP lawmakers Saturday, Trump indicated the proposal could be a jumping off point for Democrats to offer a broader plan, a source on the call told The Hill.

With the Senate out of town until Tuesday afternoon, a procedural vote on Trump’s plan isn’t expected until later in the week, likely Thursday. Senators, who are currently scattered around the country, are expected to get 24-hours advance notice of a vote so they can return to Washington.

Roughly a quarter of the federal government has been closed since Dec. 22 because of the fight over funding for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. The entrenched battle has forced roughly 800,000 employees — who will miss their second paycheck on Friday — to be furloughed or work without pay.

While Senate Republicans will try to move forward with Trump’s proposal, House Democrats are planning on Wednesday to take up another spending bill that doesn’t include wall funding.

The bill — introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump Hillicon Valley: Trump officials to investigate French tax on tech giants | Fed chair raises concerns about Facebook's crypto project | FCC blocks part of San Francisco law on broadband competition | House members warn of disinformation 'battle' MORE (D-N.Y.) — would provide funding for six appropriations bills through the end of the fiscal year.

The legislation is the latest move in Democrats' strategy to place pressure on GOP lawmakers to break with Trump’s demand for a wall along the southern border. But despite Democrats' attempts, top House Republicans assert the conference largely remains unified in the call for border security funding and a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The House will also revote on a short-term spending bill that was brought to the floor last week. Chaos broke out on the floor last Thursday after Republicans slammed Democrats for passing a stopgap spending measure to reopen the government through a voice vote, arguing their request for a roll call vote was ignored. House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (D-Md.) later vacated the vote. It is expected to come to the floor again Wednesday.

Senate Democrats are expected to keep trying to call up the House funding proposals for a vote but their efforts are expected to be blocked by McConnell.

NATO support 

A bipartisan bill reiterating congressional support of NATO is slated to come to the House floor on Tuesday.

The legislation— introduced by Rep. Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaLawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Political world mourns death of Doris Day Lawmakers pressed to fix tax law glitch MORE (D-Calif.) — rebuffs any efforts the president may make to withdraw from the alliance in addition to supporting 2 percent of NATO countries' gross domestic product on defense and advocating for funding for the “European Deterrence Initiative to counter Russian aggression.”

"The NATO alliance is a pillar of international peace, stability, and security, and serves as a deterrent against aggression and destabilization," Panetta said in a statement.  "We must promote our shared values of freedom, equality, and empowerment by continuing to invest in the institutions, programs, and people that enhance our national security."

Rules change

Senate Republicans are discussing trying to muscle through a rules change that would significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to confirm most of Trump’s nominees as soon as next week.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHouse votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship MORE (R-Ind.), asked about using the “nuclear option” to change the rules, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday that he thought the chamber could take up the issue after a procedural vote on Trump’s immigration plan, which Democrats are expected to block.

"I support the move, because Democrats have been in an ahistorical fashion violating precedence about the number of hours in which one debates noncontroversial nominees that have been reported out of different committees of jurisdiction," Young said, when asked about using the "nuclear option."

Currently, nominations face up to an additional 30 hours of debate time even after they’ve cleared an initial vote that shows they have the simple majority support needed to pass.

But the proposal being discussed by Republicans would cut the debate time down from 30 hours to eight hours. It would further cap post-cloture debate time for district court nominations at two hours.

Most Cabinet-level nominees, as well as Supreme Court nominees and circuit court nominees, would still be subjected to the full 30 hours of debate.

The proposal is similar to a resolution that passed with bipartisan support in 2013, but only governed the 113th Congress. Democrats were in control of the chamber at the time.

But Republicans are unlikely to get bipartisan support for the effort and are openly mulling using the “nuclear option,” which allows the Senate rules to be changed with only a simple majority. They have an expanded majority, with 53 seats, giving them more leeway to muscle through the changes over Democratic objections.