US Senate to vote on duelling government funding bills

Washington: The US Senate leadership has struck an agreement to vote on duelling proposals — one on President Donald Trump’s demand to spend $5.7 billion on a border wall and another on a Democratic bill that would fund the government through February 8 without a wall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, set up two votes for Thursday, both of which will require 60 votes to advance, the New York Times reported.

The first vote will be on Trump’s proposal to reopen the government, provide the funding for the border wall and extend legal protections to some immigrants for three years. If that fails, the Senate would then vote on a three-week continuing resolution to fund a quarter of the government through February 8.

Trump’s proposal would need to win over seven Democrats, along with every Senate Republican. However, no Democratic Senator was likely will back it.

Meanwhile, Democrats, who have 47 seats in the Senate, will need 13 Republicans to advance the stopgap bill. The Senate previously passed a continuing resolution in late December to fund the quarter of the government impacted by the shutdown through February 8, only for Trump to come out against the measure.

A handful of Republican Senators had floated passing a three-week continuing resolution in exchange for the Senate Appropriations Committee agreeing to take up Trump’s border request, according to the Hill newspaper.

There was no guarantee that either bill can get the votes to pass and break the months-long stalemate that has closed roughly a quarter of the government.

McConnell had earlier blocked the House passed package that would have funded the Department of Homeland Security through February 8 and the rest of the impacted departments and agencies through September 30.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer had slammed McConnell for trying to cast the blame for the shutdown fight on Democrats, referring to the GOP leader as a “co-conspirator” to Trump.