Senate Takes Up Bills to End Shutdown, Expand Border Security

Since the early days of the shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he would not bring any bills to the floor to reopen the government unless the bill could garner the 60 votes needed for passage in the Senate and the President’s signature. Today Senator McConnell broke with his previous statements and brought two pieces of legislation to the floor to end the shutdown. While both failed, they provide insight into which Senators are breaking party ranks over government funding.

Senator McConnell first held a vote on the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act.

This Act would have funded the government through Oct. 1, 2019. In addition, the legislation would have allotted $5.7 billion for construction of a physical barrier along the Southwest border. It also would have increased disaster relief funding, provided Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients a three year protection from deportation, and granted unaccompanied alien children the ability to apply for asylum from their home country rather than when they reach the US.

In addition to the funds allotted for the border wall, this Act would have provided funding for 750 new Border Patrol agents, 375 new Customs and Border Protection officers, and significant technological advancements for operations at ports of entry.

The legislation also provided additional funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other security agencies, according to a summary released by the Senate.

President Trump and Senator McConnell considered this a compromise, with elements to please both Democrats and Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the plan “one-sided and ineffective.”

This bill was defeated in a 50-47 vote along party lines.

Senator McConnell then brought another bill to the floor which had been supported predominately by Democrats.

This legislation would have funded the government with a continuing resolution until mid-February and provided no border wall funding.

This measure also failed. However, unlike with the previous legislation, six Republicans broke with their party to vote for the Democrats' legislation. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) voted in favor of the continuing resolution.

Either piece of legislation would have required 60 votes in the Senate to pass. Republicans hold a slim 53-47 majority. This means seven Democrats would have to vote in favor of the Republican plan or 13 Republicans would have to vote in favor of the Democratic plan in order for either to have passed. It is unclear when Senator McConnell plans to bring more legislation to the floor to fund the government.

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