- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Senate on Thursday rejected President Trump’s immigration compromise to grant temporary legal status to 1 million migrants and allocate money for his border wall, then rejected Democrats’ alternative to reopen the government without any new border money.

The dueling votes left the month-old shutdown stalemate no closer to a conclusion, though they did give a sense for which side has the upper hand.

Neither 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.

At least a half-dozen senators, mostly on the Republican side, voted for both plans, desperate for any solution to the shutdown. Meanwhile a couple of Republicans voted against both options.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune said the GOP defections weren’t all that surprising, and that everyone just wants to see the shutdown end in some way.

“I actually think these votes put the pressure on both sides to meet,” said Mr. Thune, South Dakota Republican. “I think you’re going to see our leaders sit down in an earnest way.”

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,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Republican leaders had said Mr. Trump’s plan was a reasonable offer and even if Democrats didn’t agree with all the details, overcoming the filibuster would have been a sign they were willing to negotiate.

They said another punt on spending for two weeks made no sense.

“My view is we should fix the problem now through the end of the fiscal year and not go through this exercise again,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “It would take about 30 minutes for fair-minded people of goodwill to work this out.”

Senators said the next steps are now unclear.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next - nobody knows,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican.

Republicans also said Mr. Trump’s plan was the only one he’s willing to sign, since the White House has threatened to veto bills that don’t include border wall money.

Democrats, though, said the Senate should test the president’s resolve and send him legislation to reopen the government.

They have said border security negotiations can come later — though they’ve sent mixed signals about whether they would be willing to negotiate over his $5.7 billion wall-building plan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called walls immoral and ruled out any discussions, but other top Democrats have at least seemed open to talks. Still, Democrats are mostly united in saying they want the government to reopen before they’ll engage in talks.

“We’re more than willing to have a conversation and develop a compromise as it relates to border security and negotiations,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat. “But our bright line is that all of those discussions have to happen after the government is open.”

The GOP 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.

Mr. Schumer called the Trump plan “laughable” as a compromise offer.

“Throughout this debacle, I have not heard one good reason why 800,000 federal employees must be held hostage for us to discuss border security,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Stephen Dinan and Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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