U.S. Sen. Susan Collins will vote for President Donald Trump’s offer to reopen the federal government for $5.7 billion in border wall funding and a rival Democratic plan that will also come up for a Senate vote on Thursday.
Both plans are expected to fail to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. The shutdown that began on Dec. 22 hit its 33rd day on Wednesday and is now the longest in U.S. history. It has persisted because of a impasse between the Republican president and congressional Democrats over wall funding.
Trump’s proposal was largely outlined in a brief Saturday address and would reopen the government and provide three-year extensions for programs shielding undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and allowing foreigners to live in the U.S. in exchange for the border wall funding and other changes to immigration law.
That plan was released by Senate Republicans on Monday and includes immigration limitations that Trump didn’t mention, including a cap on minors who can be granted asylum from three Central American countries and a requirement that they apply for it in their home countries.
It is likely a poison pill for Democrats, who are pushing a bill that would pay for government services through Feb. 8 without funding for the border wall that Trump campaigned on in 2016. Both plans will be up for Senate votes on Thursday.
Collins expressed support for Trump’s plan during a floor speech on Wednesday afternoon, putting her at odds with independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats on and told CNN on Wednesday that he opposes it. Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said later Wednesday that her boss will also vote for the Democratic plan. King supports that.
On the floor, the Republican senator ticked off many of the impacts of the government shutdown in Maine, including the Coast Guard and airport personnel who are working without pay, saying while some of the asylum changes are “problematic,” the package represented a reasonable deal and it is “long overdue for all sides to come together” to end the shutdown.
“The plan put forth by President Trump is by no means ideal, but it would result in the reopening of government — my priority — and the outlines of a compromise are before us,” she said.
King bluntly said on CNN that he would oppose the Trump plan, saying the Democratic caucus fears government shutdowns “will become the routine way to do business around here” if they cave to the president, adding that the new asylum changes represented a “typical” late shift by Trump to gain leverage.
“Now, we’ve got something that really makes it impossible to vote for,” he said.
Progressive and labor groups — many of which organized against Collins around her October vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — delivered a letter to her Portland office calling for her to help end the “federal government lockout.”
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