Senate Republicans to Hold First Vote to Reopen Government and Give Feds a Raise
Both chambers have separate plans to fund agencies. These plans are not likely to become law, but could jumpstart negotiations.
Senate Republicans this week will for the first time hold a vote to reopen all of government after a month of a partial shutdown, though House Democrats are pushing their own plan and neither one is likely to make it to President Trump’s desk.
The Senate released a plan to fund federal agencies through fiscal 2019, including Trump’s requested spending for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and significant changes to immigration policy. Democrats have objected to the latter provisions, which correspond to an offer Trump made over the weekend to reopen government, and are not likely to provide the support necessary for the measure to surpass the 60-vote threshold.
The bill includes a three-year extension of legal status for non-citizens in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival and Temporary Protected Status programs, as well as restrictions on asylum applications. It also includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees. House Democrats have also included that across-the-board salary increase in their proposals to reopen government, making it more likely that any eventual deal to end the shutdown will include the raise. The federal workforce is operating under a pay freeze due to an executive order Trump signed in December (and employees at shuttered agencies are not receiving any pay at all).
The Senate measure includes a more controversial provision to provide Vice President Mike Pence and many political appointees with the same 1.9 percent raise. Pence was set to see his pay increase earlier this year, but the Trump administration intervened to block the raise at least temporarily.
The Senate measure would also match Trump’s requests by providing funding for 750 new Border Patrol agents, 375 new customs officers, 2,000 new agents and support staff at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and 50 additional immigration judges.
In addition to the larger bill, the Senate will vote on an amendment that would provide stopgap funding through Feb. 28 for all agencies currently shut down. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the amendment offered a solution to "break us out of the morass we are in," but Senate Republicans are unlikely to support it and it too will almost certainly fail.
The House, meanwhile, will vote on a package of six spending bills that would reopen all federal agencies currently shuttered, except the Homeland Security Department. The House had passed a continuing resolution to fund DHS into February, as well as an array of spending bills to provide funding for agencies that are closed. The House measure does not include additional funding for Trump’s proposed wall or any of his suggested immigration reforms. The chamber will vote on another measure this week to fund DHS on a stopgap basis through Feb. 28.
The House is scheduled to vote on the spending package Tuesday, where it is likely to advance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly said, however, that he will not bring up for a vote any bill that Trump has not committed to signing. When the upper chamber brings up its package this week, as well as the stopgap measure, it will mark the first votes the Senate has held to reopen government since it closed Dec. 22.
Both bills largely mirror compromise legislation the Senate agreed to on a bipartisan basis last year, but they still contain some differences on spending levels.
Several Republicans tacitly acknowledged the Senate bill will not become law, but praised Trump for creating a platform that can serve to resume negotiations.
“For the good of the country, I encourage my Democratic colleagues to either join us in passing this legislation or come to the negotiating table with constructive solutions of their own,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who chairs the Appropriations Committee and introduced the new bill. “Saying 'no' to everything will not move our country forward.”
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., called Trump’s proposal and the ensuing legislation a “reasonable compromise” that should, at the very least, get both sides talking again.
“The olive branch policy and funding options in the president’s proposal should give Democrats an opportunity to negotiate in good faith,” Lankford said. “While there is still work to do to solve these and other immigration issues in the long-term, I look forward to considering the proposal in the Senate. Let’s end the shutdown.”
This story has been updated to reflect additional votes scheduled this week.