GOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE and congressional Republicans are trying to change the narrative on Democrats as the partial shutdown drags into its fifth week. 

Republicans, who have seen poll after poll showing that a majority of respondents blame Trump for the shutdown, are eager to corner Democrats by forcing a vote on the White House proposal to reopen the government and provide Trump with $5.7 billion in wall funding.

Whether the gambit works is anyone’s guess. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Democrats are showing no signs of division so far, and the Senate is also poised to vote Thursday on another measure that would temporarily reopen the government but not provide funding for the wall. 

Still, the votes on Thursday could allow Republicans to argue that they are putting up proposals to end the shutdown after weeks in which the only actions to do so have been taken by Democrats in the House. 

After watching House Democrats pass those bills for more than four weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) is eager to flip the script and have Democrats vote “no” on a bill to reopen the government — a day before federal workers impacted by the funding lapse will miss their second paycheck. 

The White House and McConnell have also sought to sweeten the pot: Their plan includes priorities backed by Democrats including extension of the Violence Against Women Act and more than $12 billion in disaster relief funding. 

Neither proposal is expected to get 60 votes without a dramatic U-turn by either Trump or Democrats. But holding the two votes will allow Republicans to try to change the media narrative and counter the Democratic strategy of forcing McConnell to repeatedly block the House bills. 

It could also be a win-win situation for Republican senators, since it allows those representing red states to vote for Trump’s proposal, while purple-state senators such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care MORE (R-Maine) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough MORE (R-Colo.) could vote for the clean three-week stopgap measure. 

Multiple polls have shown that a majority of respondents are blaming Trump and congressional Republicans for the partial shutdown, which is the longest funding lapse in modern history. 

In the latest The Hill-HarrisX survey, 46 percent of registered voters who responded and identify themselves as political independents said that Trump and the congressional GOP are primarily responsible for the government closure, a 7-point jump from a Dec. 30-31 survey.

But Trump is showing no signs of shifting his strategy in response to polling or grumbling by moderate lawmakers. 

The president views the battle with Democrats over the wall as too important to lose and is convinced the 33-day shutdown has helped make his case to the public why a wall is needed to end what he sees as a crisis of illegal immigration and drug smuggling at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a source who requested anonymity to discuss the White House’s internal thinking.

Trump is expected to meet this week with a group of conservative leaders to get input on immigration proposals and possibly push toward a broader immigration agreement if the shutdown ends.

The source added that Trump does not care about the polls and is feeling no pressure to cave on his demands.

The president is not closing off the possibility of supporting permanent extensions for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as part of an immigration deal with Democrats. 

Trump attempted to end the Obama-era DACA program for young immigrants but was blocked by federal judges from doing so. The Senate immigration deal contains a temporary extension of the program for existing beneficiaries. TPS benefits migrants from disaster-stricken or conflict-ridden countries but Trump has sought to wind down the program for several nations. 

The source said that such a concession would have to be in exchange for the right package of border security measures and changes to immigration law and cautioned Trump is unlikely to back anything that does not have a chance to win 60 votes in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. 

Trump praised McConnell on Tuesday and pledged that he will not “cave” to the demand from Democrats to reopen the government and then negotiate. 

“Never seen [McConnell] and Republicans so united on an issue as they are on the Humanitarian Crisis & Security on our Southern Border!” Trump said in a tweet. 

Some GOP senators over the weekend suggested that Trump’s offer should be viewed as an opening salvo to jumpstart negotiations that have otherwise been stalemated after a White House meeting earlier this month. 

But the White House is not planning to make a second offer to Democrats if the president’s proposal fails to pass the Senate this week, according to the source, indicating they believe it is incumbent upon Democrats to make the next move.

Democratic leaders show no signs of backing down. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (N.Y.) on Tuesday said the White House’s proposal is “going nowhere fast.” 

“Everyone knows the president said he would be proud to shut down the government. Everyone knows that he and Leader McConnell are the only obstacles to opening it back up. Across the board, the polling shows it,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. 

The White House plan would need at least seven Democratic votes to overcome the 60-vote filibuster. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate MORE (D-W.Va.) said over the weekend that he was “hopeful” Trump’s plan would “allow us to immediately reopen” the government. A spokesman for the centrist Democrat said Tuesday that he is undecided about how he will vote on the president’s plan. 

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) will also face intense pressure to back the president as he runs for reelection in a state Trump won by nearly 30 points. Jones said at a town hall in Alabama over the weekend that Trump’s plan was a “hopeful sign” and that he thought he saw “movement” in the funding fight. 

A spokeswoman for Jones didn’t respond to a question Tuesday about how he will vote. 

Meanwhile, tensions between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE (D-Calif.) and Trump escalated further Tuesday when the White House signaled it wants to move forward with a Jan. 29 State of the Union speech even though he doesn’t have approval from Congress. 

House Democrats are expected to pass a package of six additional spending bills already backed by Senate Republicans. While they’ve largely been unified during the partial shutdown, some cracks have begun to form in the Democrats’ armor. 

Some Democratic freshmen in a letter to Pelosi and party leaders pressed them to promise a vote on border security measures — including Trump’s wall — as a condition of reopening the government. The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaFairfax removed from leadership post in lieutenant governors group Virginia Legislative Black Caucus calls on Fairfax to step down Duke University board asks Fairfax to step down after rape allegation MORE (D-Va.), was first reported by Politico.

And on Tuesday, Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonBold and urgent Green New Deal may change Washington’s climate change inertia GOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight Dem lawmaker calls on Democrats to ‘give Trump the money’ for border wall MORE (D), a Minnesota Blue Dog, told a local radio station that Democrats should “give Trump the money” he wants for the border, saying the project is ultimately inevitable.

“Why are we fighting over this?” he told KFGO. “We’re going to build that wall anyway, at some time.”

Mike Lillis and Jordan Fabian contributed to this story.