US senate leaders agree on deal that could reopen government

Republicans and Democrats schedule competing votes for Thursday

Republicans will table a vote to reopen government and fund  president Donald Trump’s wall. Photograph: Mandel/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans will table a vote to reopen government and fund president Donald Trump’s wall. Photograph: Mandel/AFP/Getty Images

 

The US senate has scheduled votes on Thursday on competing proposals by Republicans and Democrats that would reopen an array of federal agencies that have been partially shuttered since December 22nd.

However, it is not clear if either measure can pass.

One vote would be on a plan by president Donald Trump to reopen the agencies and provide $5.7billion (€5 billion) this year to help build a southwest border wall, which is opposed by Democrats who are needed for passage.

The second measure, by Democrats, would fund the various agencies until February 8th but allows nothing for Trump’s wall; it will test Republican resolve to stand by the president.

The plan, a compromise between senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, offers the first hint of a path out of the partial shutdown, which is now in its fifth week and has left 800,000 federal workers without pay.

The two announced the deal on Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor.

“People are saying isn’t there a way out of this mess? Isn’t there a way to relieve the burden on the 800,000 federal workers not getting paid? Isn’t there a way to get government services open first, and debate what we should do for border security later?” Mr Schumer said. “Well, now there’s a way.”

The agreement to proceed with votes marks the first attempt at finding a path out of the shutdown, but Mr Trump has threatened to veto any measure that doesn’t fully fund his wall.

Democrats likely have the votes to block Mr Trump’s bill and the Democratic proposal would need to win support of 13 Republicans along with every Democrat.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said the deal allows both sides to offer alternatives and there is no change in Mr Trump’s opposition to a short-term reopening of the government as proposed by Democrats.

Along with the wall funding, Trump’s proposal is running into opposition from Democrats over new asylum limits for Central American minors.

The Democratic proposal has already been approved in the House, and some

Senate Republicans, including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been pressing for action that would end the shutdown which is now in its 32nd day, at least temporarily.

But the White House has said Mr Trump wouldn’t sign the legislation.

The Trump bill includes a provision to ban nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, who are under 18 years of age, from eligibility for asylum unless they submit applications at a processing centre in Central America.

That means they cannot apply in the US if they flee their home countries due to gang violence, as many have done.

As an olive branch to Democrats, the bill also includes provisional three-year work permits for young undocumented people currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme (DACA), and those who have Temporary Protected Status.

Mr Trump has sought to end both programmes.

However, the new legislation would only apply the DACA extension to those young immigrants currently receiving protections, and not those who might be eligible to qualify, as would be allowed under a previous bipartisan proposal called the Bridge Act.

The new legislation would leave out hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. – Agencies