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Senate to vote on differing bills to reopen federal government

As the shutdown dragged through its fifth week, another missed paycheck loomed for hundreds of thousands of workers.

President Donald Trump is seen Saturday.

President Donald Trump is seen Saturday. Photo Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON — Votes on dueling pieces of legislation to reopen the federal government — one backed by Republicans, the other endorsed by Democrats — will come before the U.S. Senate on Thursday after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to both proposals being put forward for a vote.

Five weeks into the federal government shutdown, the prospect of either proposal gathering the necessary 60 votes to clear the Senate appeared slim. Republicans, who are pushing a bill that advances President Donald Trump's $5.7 billion demand for a wall, would need the votes of at least seven Democrats for the measure to pass. Democrats, who have said they will not support funding for the wall and have been rallying behind a series of bills to immediately reopen the government, would need 13 Republicans to break ranks with McConnell.

McConnell, in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, said the 1,300-page Republican bill that mirrors the immigration plan outlined by Trump in a White House speech on Saturday "is the only proposal currently before us that can be signed by the President and immediately reopen the government."  McConnell was referring to Trump's vow to veto any legislation that does not include the full $5.7 billion.

On Day 32 of the government shutdown, as some 800,000 federal workers were bracing to miss out on another paycheck come Friday, Trump, on Twitter, reiterated his calls for Republicans to stay firm on his wall request, writing: “No Cave!”

“Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security,” Trump tweeted.

Congressional Democrats continued to voice their opposition to the Senate Republican bill, unveiled late Monday night. The measure, reflecting Trump's demands, calls for the $5.7 billion in border wall funding, in exchange for a three-year extension of protections granted to about 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers  who are enrolled in the Obama-era DACA program, and some 350,000 immigrants shielded from deportation under the decades-old Temporary Protected Status program for those who fled disaster zones.

Democrats came out against Trump’s plan this weekend, arguing that it merely restores immigration programs that the president moved to dismantle in his first year in office. On Tuesday, they also objected to provisions in the GOP bill that would limit the number of Central American youth who could petition for asylum in the United States. The GOP plan would require minors attempting to flee from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to first apply for asylum at special facilities in Central America, not at the U.S. border, and would cap the  number of asylum approvals to 15,000 individuals a year. They would also be blocked from appealing a decision denying  them asylum.

Schumer, in a Senate floor speech, accused Trump and Republicans of pushing forward a plan that was "designed to fail."

"It’s only a thinly veiled attempt by the president to save face," Schumer said. "Anyone who looks at the legislation can tell that it was designed to fail. In exchange for the wall, the president only offers limited, temporary protections for DACA and TPS — protections he single-handedly removed — so it’s sort of like bargaining for stolen goods. And then, on top of that, he has proposed new, radical changes to our asylum system without consulting any Democrats; changes that controvert our nation’s most fundamental and precious values."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, said the Trump backed GOP bill was a "non-starter."

"Let me be very clear — open up government. Open the government, let’s talk," Pelosi said. "We can’t have a president, every time he has an objection, to say I’ll shut down the government until you come to my way of thinking."

The tension between Trump and Pelosi continued to play out Tuesday, as White House officials said the president planned to move forward with delivering his Jan. 29 State of the Union address from the U.S. Capitol Building, despite Pelosi's encouraging him in a letter last week to reschedule the speech until a deal was reached on the shutdown.

Pelosi still has the power to block the president from delivering the speech before a joint session of Congress because both the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate must pass resolutions convening the session. Asked about her next move, Pelosi told reporters only, “We want people to get paid," referring to furloughed workers.

Looking to draw attention to the plight of  those workers, Pelosi on Tuesday morning toured an emergency food kitchen set up by celebrity chef Jose Andres for those impacted by the shutdown. Andres, who has publicly feuded with the president in the past over  Trump's immigration agenda and his response to back-to-back hurricanes in Puerto Rico, has been providing free meals and toiletries from a location just blocks away from the president’s namesake luxury hotel in D.C.

Pelosi thanked volunteers, one of whom stood behind stacks of baby diapers to dole out to those in families in need.

“You can’t furlough a baby’s needs,” said the female volunteer. “Families have needs that are not going to be met by back pay.”

The FBI Agents Association, which represents the interests of field agents,  issued a 72-page report on Tuesday, detailing how the shutdown has impacted criminal investigations and prosecutions.

"We cannot secure safe places to meet with our informants and we cannot pay them for their information,” one counterterrorism agent wrote in the report. “In most cases, this means not being able to make regular meetings and missing out on information altogether, leaving a concerning gap in intel relating to national security.”

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