WASHINGTON – Congress will vote this week on different bills to fund the federal government, but the proposals offer such starkly divergent pathways forward that they are unlikely to end the longest government shutdown in history.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that he would bring to the floor later this week a $354.5 billion spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall as well as some of the immigration concessions that President Donald Trump proposed over the weekend.
“The opportunity to end all this is staring us right in the face,” McConnell said. “All that needs to happen is for our Democratic friends to put the country ahead of politics, take yes for an answer and vote to put this standoff behind us.”
Democrats, however, already have rejected the proposal as a “non-starter,” so it is likely to be dead on arrival even if it passes the Senate.
House Democrats are pushing their own spending bill that will offer roughly $1 billion for construction at ports of entry and for hiring new immigration judges – but no money for a border wall.
That bill is certain to die in the GOP-led Senate, guaranteeing that the partial government shutdown – now in its 32nd day – will drag on.
Meanwhile, Trump accused Democrats of playing politics and indicated he has no intention of backing down in his demand of border wall funding.
“Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security,” he wrote on Twitter. “With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S. The Dems know this but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly. No Cave!”
Trump struck a less-confrontational tone on Saturday when he used a White House speech to outline what he called “a common-sense compromise both parties can embrace” to fund the government and end the shutdown.
Late Monday, the Senate released draft legislation including Trump’s proposals.
The 1,301-page bill would provide $5.7 billion to build Trump’s long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also would include three years of protection for young immigrants brought into the country illegally and for people granted Temporary Protected Status because of a crisis in their home countries.
In addition, the bill includes $12.7 billion in aid for victims of last year’s hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
One part of the bill that is already drawing criticism from immigration groups would change how minors from Central America seek asylum.
The proposal would require them to apply for asylum in their home country instead of at the southwest border, as many have done in recent years. The number who could apply would be limited to 50,000 a year, and only 15,000 could be approved every year. To win approval, asylum would have to be determined to be in “the national interest.”
Kerri Talbot, director of federal advocacy for the Immigration Hub, a group that advocates on behalf of immigrants, scoffed at the idea that the bill represented any kind of compromise, labeling it a “Trojan Horse” instead.
“This is a Stephen Miller special,” Talbot said, referring to the White House adviser who has led Trump’s efforts to attack legal and illegal immigration.
Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said the bill would destroy the very concept of asylum in the U.S.
“This is a major change, a historic change that would be ushered in by this bill, closing down so many for asylum protections that we have,” Chen said.
In the House, meanwhile, the legislation that Democrats will put forward for a vote this week includes $563 million to hire more immigration judges and $524 million for construction at ports of entry, though none of the money can be used for Trump’s demand for a border wall, said Evan Hollander, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill would reopen the government and fund most government agencies through the end of September.
The House already passed a bill that would temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb 8. That department is not included in the latest bill.
Contributing: Alan Gomez, David Jackson
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