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Donald Trump unbowed as dueling government shutdown bids fail in Senate

January 25, 2019

Senators blocked two different attempts to end the government shutdown Thursday, filibustering one plan from President Trump and another from Democrats, leaving all sides to wonder whether there’s a path out of the morass.

The dueling votes both fell well short of the 60 votes needed to advance, though Democrats’ plan to reopen the government for a couple weeks did slightly better than Mr. Trump’s proposal for a major immigration deal to be combined with full-year government funding.

The two failures sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic counterpart Sen. Charles E. Schumer into a huddle to see if they could figure out another solution for a quick end to the shutdown.

Some lawmakers urged a short-term reopening of government to create breathing space for border security negotiations.

Mr. Trump said he would be open to a deal, but there must be at least a symbolic downpayment on his border wall in any short-term bill, too. He suggested wall money could be prorated to the length of a short-term bill.

“We have to have the wall,” he told reporters at the White House.

That was a no-go for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, though.

“That is not a reasonable agreement,” she said.

Soon after, she sent the House home for a three-day weekend, undercutting hopes for a deal by week’s end, though she insisted her lawmakers were able to be recalled if there’s a breakthrough.

Mrs. Pelosi has already led the House in more than 10 votes on bills to fund the government, though none have included the border security Mr. Trump says is critical.

Yet until Thursday, senators had not held any votes during the 34 days of the shutdown, with GOP leaders insisting there was no reason to waste time on proposals the president wouldn’t sign.

That changed this week when Mr. Trump announced his new compromise. His plan, in addition to border wall construction, would have created a three-year protection for 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” covered under the Obama-era DACA program, and another 300,000 immigrants in the country on humanitarian Temporary Protected Status.

It also includes $12.7 billion in supplemental disaster relief funding for states that have been affected by recent hurricane and wildfires.

But Democrats said the protections for Dreamers and TPS holders wasn’t generous enough they want full citizenship rights and said another part of the plan would prevent some illegal immigrants from claiming asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Neither Senate proposal achieved the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, but the Democratic plan did better, getting 52 to the Trump plan’s 50 votes.

A half-dozen Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, voted for both plans. Two Republicans, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Lee of Utah, voted against both options.

Democrats framed the votes as a test of support for Mr. Trump, and on that count it’s clear he has more work to do.

“We all know it was the president who threw us into this turmoil,” Mr. Schumer said.

For his part Mr. Trump painted the votes as a victory, arguing that Republicans “held” their own members for the most part and that the disaster relief money aided the vote count on the Democratic proposal.

“You need 60 ... so we knew they both were not going to go anywhere,” he said.

Throughout the month-long shutdown, senators have seemed eager to strike deals. Yet they’ve had no takers from House Democrats or Mr. Trump.

One early offer last year from Mr. Schumer, to accept $1.6 billion in border wall money, had to be scrapped after Mrs. Pelosi, then the House Minority Leader, said she wouldn’t accept that.

Then Mr. Schumer and Mr. McConnell had a deal to keep departments from losing money for seven weeks. The White House blessed that deal, but after conservatives complained, Mr. Trump reversed and said he would veto it.

Still, Mr. Trump seems in a mood to deal, as long as it’s on his terms.

In addition to his immigration plan that was defeated in the Senate, he has tasked son-in-law Jared Kushner to negotiate with immigrant-rights groups. Mr. Kushner reportedly offered a major amnesty for nearly 2 million illegal immigrants in exchange for a massive infusion of border security money that went beyond wall funding.

League of United Latin American Citizens President Domingo Garcia said they would accept the amnesty for “Dreamers” and would be willing to talk about border security but won’t accept any wall funding.

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said there are plenty of discussions on Capitol Hill, too, though he wasn’t sure how much was getting done.

“You’ve got people running around - I don’t mean this in a pejorative sense - but like sprayed roaches. They’re everywhere,” he said.

Yet he said the only two opinions that really matter are Mr. Trump and Mrs. Pelosi, whose relationship has cratered in recent days after she suggested postponing the State of the Union, he canceled her government jet for an overseas trip, and she then followed through and nixed the national address planned that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Mrs. Pelosi had the House pass a spending bill Thursday to re-open the Department of Homeland Security through February.

Meanwhile her top lieutenants are working on a border security plan of their own which they said could match Mr. Trump’s $5.7 billion border security plan in dollar amount, though it will focus on drones, manpower and scanning technology at border crossings rather than on Mr. Trump’s fencing demands.

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