NYT: Senate will hold votes on two funding bills Thursday -- but no deal

What chance will Mitch McConnell have in moving the bill containing Donald Trump’s shutdown deal after introducing it in the Senate today? Nil, and the same chance appears to apply to another bill that floated out this afternoon. The New York Times reports that McConnell and Chuck Schumer have agreed to hold votes on both, although there’s no indication that the agreement extends to actual passage of either:

The Senate will vote Thursday on two separate bills that would bring an immediate end to the partial government shutdown: one backed by President Trump that includes $5.7 billion for his border wall and another that would simply extend funding for shuttered agencies through Feb. 8.

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 it Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor.

At least at first blush, the compromise looks like a deal that’s mainly for show. Trump says he won’t sign a funding bill without border-wall money, and Pelosi won’t sign one with it. And at second blush, it also looks like there’s no deal, which Roll Call reports as well:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer have announced an agreement for a pair of test votes Thursday afternoon on government funding legislation.

But it may not get lawmakers any closer to a deal to re-open the closed portions of the federal government. …

Either of those amendments would need 60 votes to break potential (or likely) filibusters, and after the two leaders made the announcement there was no indication that wither would get to that supermajority threshold.

The only difference is that Schumer’s bill is a CR, which might — might — convince Democrats to start negotiating on Trump’s proposal offered on Saturday. More on that in a moment. In the meantime, ABC reports, the Senate Majority Leader will persist on Trump’s deal on its own too:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to introduce a bill on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday, aides for the senator told ABC News, following a plan announced by the president over the weekend that would trade protections for DACA recipients — undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — for wall funding — though the plan was quickly rejected by Democrats.

The bill is likely to encompass funding for the president’s wall as well as funding for the 25 percent of the government that’s been shut down for the last month. The bill may also include billions of dollars in disaster aid and an extension on a bill that protects women from violence, aides said.

It remains to be seen if the bill will advance in the Senate, given that most Democrats’ are united in demanding that President Donald Trump must reopen the government before they will begin talks about funding border security.

Even if the bill McConnell planned to introduce amounted to a clean swap between a border wall and extensions to DACA and TPS, it would go nowhere. Democrats insist that they won’t negotiate until the shutdown ends, at which point Trump loses his leverage and they won’t negotiate at all. However, the bill is far from a clean swap, as Gabriel Malor and Allahpundit pointed out earlier today. It almost seems designed to provoke Democrats and force every one of them to vote nay, keeping McConnell from getting the seven Democrats needed to pass a cloture vote.

Fox News reports that it might not get all 53 Republicans:

McConnell’s bill is modeled after Trump’s proposal and an effort to pressure Democrats. The bill will likely need 60 votes in the Senate, meaning McConnell needs at least seven Democrats to break off and join the 53 Republicans in the chamber.

But 53 Republican votes might not be a sure thing, either. Many conservatives commentators and immigration hardliners have blasted the protection extensions for immigrants as “amnesty” and a vote could fuel primary challengers for those who vote “aye.”

The Senate bill also provides $12.7 billion in supplemental disaster relief, as well as funding for the nine government departments that have not been funded since the partial shutdown began Dec. 22.

It’s not amnesty, as Trump has said, since it doesn’t actually address the adult illegal immigrants at all. That may not matter much though, since the funding decisions in the bill hold enough annoyance factors for Republicans to potentially peel a few off in both the House and Senate. The disaster relief was another carrot for Democrats that also won’t carry much weight. That’s coming one way or another, so its value as a sweetener is much more limited than the DACA and the TPS extensions.

Speaking of DACA, the Supreme Court might have taken away a potential leverage point today:

The federal program granting quasi-legal status and work permits to so-called Dreamers is likely to remain in effect through most of this year, after the Supreme Court appeared to rebuff President Donald Trump’s bid for quick action to resolve lawsuits over his attempt to wind down the program.

Justice Department lawyers had asked the justices to accept several cases over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and add them to the court’s calendar for argument in April, meaning a ruling could be issued by June. However, orders from the high court Tuesday morning made no mention of the DACA disputes.

Typically, cases accepted by the court after mid-January are not argued until the fall, although the justices can accelerate cases if they wish.

Had the top court taken up the DACA challenges now, it might have prompted Democrats to seek a deal quickly on the program. Trump has a good argument that any program created by executive fiat can be deconstructed by the same mechanism, which is why Democrats are less interested in extensions than in statutory action. However, if nothing can be done with DACA while existing injunctions remain in effect blocking any new executive action, any leverage Trump has to force action on immigration vanishes.

In the absence of that leverage, the best Trump can do is to call the Democrats’ bluff, which is what seems to be happening with the agreement reported by the NYT. Reopen government for a limited time — a three-week CR would probably suffice — and then demand that they negotiate on the clean DACA/TPS-border wall initiative. That would shift some sympathy back to Trump and force Democrats to throw DACA recipients and advocates under the bus if they refuse. Plus, the next shutdown under those circumstances will more clearly be on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Is that what Trump has in mind here? “No Cave” seems to be the order on both sides of this standoff.