There is movement but no endgame in sight for the partial government shutdown.
There are votes, but they are expected to fail.
There is a growing sense among rank-and-file lawmakers and aides that something needs to give and soon, but leaders still aren’t talking.
There is muted optimism, but also a recognition that there’s still a long way to go.
The actual pathway out of the now shutdown, aides make very clear, is still not apparent or sketched out. There is no deal-in-waiting or Plan B proposal waiting in the wings. But there is plenty of precedent for failure, particularly in a floor vote, leading both sides to begin negotiations in earnest. There is hope this will spark exactly that, but it’s not guaranteed.
The Democratic baseline is no negotiations on border security until the government is reopened. President Donald Trump’s baseline is he won’t reopen the government without border wall funding. Obviously, one or both of those positions will have to shift for any resolution to occur.
Stories circulating among Capitol Hill aides right now
To watch Wednesday
House Democrats meet for a closed door caucus meeting at 9 a.m. ET.
House Democratic Caucus press conference at 10 a.m.
House GOP Leadership press conference at 10:15 a.m.
About the movement
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to hold two procedural votes Thursday on competing proposals. Here’s what will happen:
The agreement allows for two votes – both procedural, to end debate (cloture) – to advance amendments on the floor. Both votes are subject to a 60-vote threshold.
The two amendments – and thus the two votes – are:
1. The Trump/Senate GOP proposal includes
- $5.7 billion for border wall
- Temporary DACA protections, only for current enrollees
- 3-year extension of Temporary Protected Status
- Asylum law changes
- $12.7 billion in disaster aid
- All seven unpassed appropriations bills, as agreed to by the bipartisan House/Senate conference earlier this year (The DHS appropriation bill wasn’t fully agreed to, but will contain the agreed upon top line numbers.)
2. The House-passed bill that would reopen the shuttered 25% of the federal government through February 8, plus $12.1 billion in disaster aid.
How this plays out
Trump’s proposal is, Republican aides acknowledge, dead in the water. It would take seven Democrats to join all 53 Republicans to advance it, and they will fall far short.
The Democratic proposal – something House and Senate Democrats have been calling for a vote on for weeks – is also likely to fall short. Yes, a handful of Republicans will likely support it, and yes, 10 Republicans signed onto a draft letter advocating for a similar type of strategy. But it will take 13 to join all Democrats to advance to proposal – and 20 to make it a veto-proof majority.
That will not happen, aides say. Why? Crossing the President – and voting for something that he will eventually veto – is simply not a position the vast majority of the Senate GOP conference (and House GOP conference for that matter) wants to be in. Now, if the President chooses to support the Democratic proposal, all bets are off, but GOP aides talking to the White House make clear there is zero indication that will happen. As to the official White House position on it …
“If H.R. 268 were presented to the President with a continuing resolution included, his advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.” – statement of administration Policy on the proposal when it was considered in the House.
Democrats are going to ramp up the pressure on moderate GOP senators in a major way in the next two days. And the vote on one of the House-passed proposals that doesn’t address the border wall is one McConnell has in large part attempted to shield his conference from due to the president’s opposition. But with nothing else working – and leaders still dug into their positions – this is an effort to jar things loose.
The real pathway out
Anyone who kept a close eye on the House Republican majority over its eight years in power would recognize a central piece of what’s happening here. Repeatedly, conservatives would push proposals that could not pass the Senate. They knew it would not pass the Senate. Leaders urged them not to force the conference down a path with no end game. But in the end, they held votes on the proposal just to show it would die in the Senate. Then real talks would commence, a majority would be cobbled together, and the real deal or final proposal would pass.
That’s a large part of what’s happening here, aides say: Trump needs to see his proposal fail. And Democrats, should the theory hold, need to see that the House-passed proposals they’ve been agitating for consideration for weeks, will not, actually, have enough Republican support to advance.
In other words, it all needs to fail before something can succeed. That’s the idea. We’ll see if that’s how it plays out.
Along those lines
Read this very good piece going through all of the above, by CNN’s Stephen Collinson.
The grumbling and frustration amongst the rank and file lawmakers in both parties of both chambers has been clear to anyone walking the Capitol hallways for weeks now, but it’s particularly acute among moderates in both parties and House freshmen.
As one of the new freshmen Democrats told CNN Tuesday: “This just flat-out sucks. Period.”
Along those lines, Rep. Elaine Luria, a freshman Democrat from Virginia, is circulating a letter for signatures that requests an immediate reopening of government, followed by a structured timeline and committee process for border security negotiations. It you notice, it’s not actually a divergence from the position of Democratic leadership – the key piece is reopening the government before anything else can happen – but it does underscore the desire to show that through the dysfunction and morass, new members are trying to agitate for movement of any kind.
Just keeping an eye on this
The bipartisan “gang” of senators that has met several times – and at one point drafted a letter to the President that was never sent – has continued to have discussions, multiple people involved tell me. To be clear, the President has rejected everything they’ve worked on up to this point, but if things really do shake loose toward the end of the week, keep an eye on this group and what they may propose.