How’s This For A Curve Ball?

Senate To Vote On Not One Bill To Reopen The Government Tomorrow, But Two…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jointly announce vote Thursday on dueling bills

The first is the new Senate bill, ghostwritten by the White House, that we painstakingly analyzed yesterday. That’s the one that includes Trump’s wall.

The other is the bill that’s already passed in the House, based on a bill originally overwhelmingly passed in the Senate by Republicans and Democrats alike. Before Trump changed his mind and said he wouldn’t sign. That one doesn’t include a wall.

The plan was revealed during a joint appearance on the floor of the Senate by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Interestingly, McConnell put his proposed legislation up without comment. Schumer, always a talker, had a few points to make, but even he uncharacteristically kept it tight and (relatively) polite, although he likened Trump’s proposal to “bargaining with stolen goods”. Here’s part of what he had to say:

The most likely outcome is obvious: neither bill gets the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate.

At the same time, it creates both some enticing opportunities, and potential ironies, for instance:

It could very likely result in Republican Senators voting down a bill they were responsible for first putting up, and passing by a huge majority.

Even though Trump has already said he won’t sign the House bill (which is the reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has given for blocking a vote until now), doing so might serve some useful purpose for the President, especially depending on how badly he wants to give the State of the Union Address next week. That’s because the House Bill only funds the government until February 8th. Which, when was originally proposed and approved by the Republican-controlled Senate back in mid-December, sounded like a reasonable amount of time to hammer out a border security package. Now, it’d just guarantee the government would be reopened for a few days.

So even though Trump has vowed not to sign anything without a wall included, there might be some attractive enticements for him to do so:

  1. He could immediately reopen the government and even if that lasted for just a few days, he could get people paid. They’d like that. Pretty much all Americans would like that.
  2. He could give the State of the Union Address as scheduled, in Congress, without jumping through hoops or appearing under duress. He could still use the entire speech to bash Democrats about the wall.
  3. Even though Democrats still probably wouldn’t go for a wall, they would rush forward willing to commit far more money to border security than they ever would’ve before, just to prove Trump wrong when he says they’re against it and “for open borders.” Trump could claim this as a victory, and it would be for him, even though Democrats could also claim they didn’t give in.

In addition, the apparent Supreme Court decision not to consider DACA in the current session, despite the Trump Administration’s call for them to do so, detracts from of one of Trump’s biggest pressure points. That means their earliest ruling would now come in 2020, unless they decided to work an “extraordinary session”, which has almost never happened.

So now Trump’s “new generous compromise” offered over the weekend is far less attractive (not that it was attractive in the first place), because offering DACA recipients a 3-year extension under current rules is worth far less now that the Supreme Court has in effect already itself created at least a one-year suspension.

Also remember even if the new Trump-composed Senate bill passes, it would still then have to pass in the House, where it almost assuredly would not. At the same time, if the Senate passes the House bill that already passed, it goes right to the President’s desk, where he probably won’t affix his giant signature, but who knows?

One big lingering question: what’s Senate Majority Leader McConnell up to here? He’s blocked votes on the House proposal so many times during the 5 weeks of the shutdown. And even though he’s allowing a vote now, that doesn’t mean he’s supporting the bill that he originally shepherded through back in December. He’s not. So why suddenly allow it? What’s McConnell’s angle? Because, heck he’s gotta have one.

But we’re not going to get sucked into speculating about what’s going on in his head. Well, maybe a little:

  • Perhaps he’s anticipating that even though both bills will fail, the Trump-authored one will get more votes, bringing some much-needed momentum Republicans’ way by making their bill appear more popular, even if it doesn’t mean very much right away. The White House certainly believes Democrats will start falling like dominoes, and abandon Nancy Pelosi, if public opinion somehow shifts to blaming Democrats more.
  • Maybe he sees this vote as a possible, low-risk path for federal workers to get paid without really giving in on much of anything, since the President could just shut the government down again at the beginning of February if no new border agreement is reached between now and then. In the interim, the President would have the opportunity to give his State of the Union address to the public, and maybe also do a rally: his best shots at ramping up support. And McConnell could come out smelling like a rose.

Or maybe there’s some stratagem we’re totally missing, that will reveal itself as days go by