GOP seeks to chip away at Dem unity with shutdown votes

All eyes will be on the Senate on Thursday as Republicans seek to chip away at Democratic unity in the high-stakes showdown over the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The Senate is poised to hold dueling votes over competing plans to end the 34-day partial government shutdown.

It will vote first on President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE’s weekend proposal that includes money for his wall on the Mexican border and other immigration provisions. The Senate will then vote on a simpler measure that would reopen the government for more than two weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT

GOP senators acknowledge that neither proposal will garner the 60 votes needed to advance, underscoring that the shutdown is not ending this week.

But both sides will be watching the vote count closely to see how many members break with their parties and which measure gets the most votes.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, giving an automatic edge to the Trump proposal. 

But three Republicans have expressed public support for passing a clean measure to reopen the government, and other GOP senators have publicly called for Washington to pass a stopgap measure to buy time for the two sides to negotiate.

Two Democratic centrists — Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (W.Va.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) — will also be watched closely.

Manchin on Thursday said he would vote to advance Trump's proposal. Both represent states where Trump is popular, and Jones faces a difficult reelection in 2020. 

The floor drama comes a day before fallout from the shutdown will become more severe, as the roughly 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or forced to work without pay will miss their second paycheck on Friday. 

Tensions are also rising after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSusan Collins asks postmaster general to address delays of 'critically needed mail' Trump says he'd sign bill funding USPS but won't seek changes to help mail voting On The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' MORE’s (D-Calif.) decision to nix Trump’s request to deliver his State of the Union address next week. Trump said late Wednesday that he would wait until the shutdown is over to deliver the speech.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' Overnight Health Care: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal | US records deadliest day of summer | Georgia governor drops lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal MORE (R-Ky.) is hoping to drive a wedge between Senate Democrats and Pelosi, who have been like peas in a pod so far. 

Senate GOP leadership staff blasted out a release to reporters on Wednesday titled “Democrats Resist Pelosi.” And McConnell has been reading statements from Democratic lawmakers who sound open to making a deal on border security. 

“More and more Democrats seem to be coming to the same conclusion as the rest of us. It’s time to make a deal,” McConnell said. 

There have been a few signs of stress this week on the Democratic side, though the party has largely remained emboldened in the face of public opinion polls showing they are winning the shutdown fight.

An Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Wednesday found that 60 percent blame Trump for the funding lapse. A separate CBS News poll found that 66 percent of Americans want Trump to agree to a funding bill without extra wall money and that more Americans believe Pelosi is doing a better job handling the shutdown compared to the president. 

Most Democrats are expected to oppose the White House–backed funding plan, which would trade $5.7 billion on the border wall for a three-year extension of protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and some temporary protected status holders. 

But Manchin is an exception, and he said Thursday he would back the Trump-supported measure.

"I'm voting for both. I'm doing everything in my power to open up this government," Manchin said of the two proposals.

Jones, who is viewed as the most vulnerable Senate incumbent on the ballot in 2020, has not announced how he will vote. A spokeswoman for the red-state Democrat did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the issue. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal COVID-19 relief talks look dead until September  Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said Democrats need to start pitching alternatives to Trump’s proposal in order to break the stalemate. 

“I think if they both fail, what the president has done is start the process of adding more to what we’re talking about, then it’s time I would hope for the president to look for even more things that he could put on the table that he’d like to do … but it’s also time for the Democrats to talk about if they don’t like the president’s DACA proposal, what to do they like? You can’t just not like everything,” Blunt said. 

Democrats have been trying to build support for their own measure that would fund the parts of the government that are currently closed through Feb. 8, as well as provide billions in disaster relief funding. 

“The first vote is completely partisan. The first vote is the president’s hostage-taking position codified into an amendment,” Schumer said. “The second vote is the opposite. ... If President Trump weren’t opposed to it, there would be nothing controversial about the second vote and just about every Republican would vote for it as they did the first time a month ago.” 

Though the Senate previously passed a continuing resolution late last year, the political calculus changed dramatically for Republicans when Trump came out against the measure. Republicans — who are defending a majority of their 2020 Senate seats in red states — don’t want to set up a fight with Trump over an issue viewed as crucial to their base.

Democrats hope that because the Senate is voting first on the president’s proposal, more Republicans will vote for the stopgap bill after the White House-backed measure goes down.  

So far three GOP senators — Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: EPA finalizes rollback of Obama-era oil and gas methane emissions standards | Democratic lawmakers ask Interior to require masks indoors at national parks | Harris climate agenda stresses need for justice Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins asks postmaster general to address delays of 'critically needed mail' Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Trump: GOP senators who don't embrace him will 'lose their elections' MORE (R-Maine) and Corey Gardner (Colo.) — have said they will support the continuing resolution. 

“I’m in the camp of being happy that we’re going to be going to the floor and having an opportunity to vote on proceeding to anything,” Murkowski said. “I’m not very optimistic at its chance of passage, but we’ve got to get ourselves off of dead center here.” 

Collins and Gardner are both up for reelection in states won in 2016 by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' MORE. Collins's office confirmed on Wednesday evening that she would support the short-term bill as well as the president's proposal. 

“The president’s put forth an offer,” Collins said. “It seems me we should get a counteroffer. That’s the way a negotiation usually works.”

Gardner's office told The Denver Post's editorial board that he would support the two measures.

Updated at 1:53 p.m.