- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Senate leaders scheduled a showdown on a pair of shutdown votes for Thursday, in what will be the first test of whether President Trump or Democrats have a stronger hand in the negotiations.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer agreed to the dueling votes, in a deal that passes for progress after more than a month of stalemate.

The last time the Senate took a vote on the shutdown was Dec. 21, just hours before funding ran out.

“For the first time we will get a vote on whether to open up the government without a decision one way or the other on border security,” Mr. Schumer said.

The GOP’s ante in the showdown will be Mr. Trump’s new proposal combining $5.7 billion in border wall funding with a three-year deportation amnesty for about 1 million migrants here under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or a special humanitarian program known as Temporary Protected Status.

Mr. Trump also calls for a new direct path for children in Central America to apply for asylum in the U.S. — but limits their ability to enter the U.S. illegally and then claim asylum.

Those provisions are attached to bills that would reopen all nine shuttered departments with full funding to last through the end of the fiscal year.

The White House has called that a good-faith offer to end the shutdown, make progress on border security and give Democrats long-sought protections for some immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

But Democrats and immigrant-rights activists complained of a bait-and-switch, saying the legislation Republicans will put on the floor is less generous than what they’d been led to believe would result after Mr. Trump detailed the plans in a speech Saturday.

“Any hope we had that the president was moving quickly towards meaningful compromise disappeared with the harsh terms of this written proposal,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the upper chamber.

He and his fellow Senate Democrats are countering with legislation that would reopen the government for a couple of weeks, perhaps giving all sides a chance to negotiate a broader deal.

Meanwhile, House Democrats said they’re going another direction, scheduling votes on bills to reopen most of government for the rest of the year — but only giving Homeland Security a short-term boost.

The House plan ignores Mr. Trump’s request for border money, does not include protections for Dreamers or TPS recipients, nor does it include the president’s proposed adjustments to asylum for Central American children.

It does include additional funding for immigration judges, as does the Senate GOP proposal.

The House plan also includes more than $500 million for infrastructure at U.S. ports of entry, which Democrats say is key to helping slow the illicit flow of drugs into the country.

“Coupled with investments in technology and personnel, these infrastructure improvements will do far more than a wall to stem the flow of illegal goods, narcotics, and people being smuggled into the country,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, Illinois Democrat.

While Democrats have been united in their stance so far, some cracks are beginning to show.

Rep. Collin Peterson, Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he would favor giving President Trump money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall as a way out of the government shutdown if there are “strings” attached to make sure the money is spent properly.

“I’m a committee chairman — so I’m in the room with the other leadership,” he said in an interview with KFGO radio posted online Tuesday. “And I told them, you guys are making a mistake. Give Trump the money … I’d give him the whole thing that he wants and put strings on it so that you make sure that he puts the wall where it needs to be.”

At the same time, Senate Democrats are hoping to pick up support of some Republicans eager to see the shutdown end, but who haven’t been given a chance to break from their party leadership until this week.

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