The Slatest

The Shutdown Could Finally End. Or Not.

Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer sit on a stage in front of plants and a curtain.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wait on stage together at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

At long last, we have movement to end the government shutdown.

Per a deal reached between Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, the Senate will vote on two bills to fund the government on Thursday. One will be the immigration proposal the president unveiled Saturday. It’s a complete non-starter for Democrats, especially now that its many poison pills have been revealed. The other, though, would be a clean continuing resolution reopening the government until Feb. 8 that the House had already passed. That one would very much be a starter for Democrats, and it would ensure that federal workers wouldn’t miss another payday. It would need 60 votes to advance.

This is either the breakthrough that ends the shutdown—at least for a couple of weeks—or this week’s iteration of What’s New in Shutdown Messaging.

If enough Republicans join Democrats to pass the short-term bill, President Donald Trump would find on his desk a bill to fund the government without any wall money. That would be a defeat for him, and it would be a sign that Senate Republicans had finally decided their position was untenable. It would be a cave.

If the president comes out against the proposal, though, and scares off Senate Republicans from voting for it, it would allow Senate Republican leaders to argue that it’s futile passing legislation that doesn’t address the border. And the shutdown would continue.

In either case, we are starting to see this week what we hadn’t seen in the past month of the shutdown: movement. It was McConnell who asked the president to develop “compromise” legislation in the first place, because he needed something to put on the floor. And centrist Democrats in the House, many of them representing red or purple districts, drafted a letter on Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her at least to promise the president a vote on his homeland security request, including border wall funding, after the government reopened.

The Senate might not be able to end the shutdown on Thursday. But the machinery that will end the shutdown eventually—pressure from anxious Senate Republicans and anxious House Democrats—is starting to operate.