Failure of rival Senate legislations push compromise efforts on US shutdown

Donald Trump
Donald Trump, File Photo

New York, Jan 25 (IANS) After Republican and Democratic measures to end the partial government shutdown failed in the Senate, a sobered President Donald Trump and the Democratic Party leadership appeared to soften their positions and edge towards a reluctant compromise.

The voting in the two failed resolutions on Thursday were telling for Trump because six of his own party’s Senators crossed over to support the Democratic proposal while two Republicans voted against their party’s counter proposal.

As the shutdown enters its 35th day on Friday, 800,000 federal employees, both those working and those on temporary layoff, missed their second fortnightly pay and the essential government services were beginning to show signs of fraying.

The failed Democratic measure proposed by the party leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, would have approved funds to keep the government running till March 8 while negotiations continued on a compromise for financing the wall on the Mexican border that Trump demands.

The defeated Republican proposal included the $5.7 billion that Trump demanded for the border wall as well as his proposal to give a three-year reprieve for deportation for about 700,000 people who had come illegally to this country as children and about 300,000 who had received temporary asylum as their countries suffered natural calamities like the Nepal earthquake or violent unrest.

Two Republican Senators opposed it because it gave concessions to illegal immigrants, illustrating the difficulty for the two party’s leadership to reach a compromise because of the pull of the hardliners on both sides.

The failures were a setback for Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been involved along with Vice President Mike Pence in behind the scenes talks with legislators to find a compromise.

Trump suffered a loss of face on Wednesday when he unexpectedly agreed to postpone his State of the Union address after repeatedly demanding that Speaker Nancy Pelosi allow him to speak from the House chamber.

Trump has been sticking firmly to his demand for the $5.7 billion to be included in the budget to build the border wall to deter smugglers and illegal immigrants, while the Democrats have opposed it with equal vehemence.

As a result, the country has not had a budget since December 22 resulting in a shutdown of all but the essential government services.

A high-tech border barrier, rather than a wall or steel fence, may hold the key to a settlement.

Some Democrats were reported circulating proposals for providing for border security as much as the $5.7 billion that Trump wants as long as the money is spent on high-tech defences and personnel and not for a physical barrier.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told the Senate that Trump would go in for a temporary measure to reopen the government for three weeks and negotiate a deal if it included some of his demand for the wall.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly shot it down as not a reasonable offer.

Trump still has an extreme option: declaring a state of emergency and having the Army Corps of Engineers build the barrier with diverted military funds.

He has spoken about it citing the crisis along the border where over 7,000 Central Americans who came in a caravan hoping to force their way into the US are camped out on the Mexican side, with another caravan of 8,000 on the way.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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