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Are upcoming Senate funding votes merely ‘symbolic’ gestures?

On day 32 of the government shutdown, some signs of progress. The Senate will vote Thursday on proposals by both Republicans and Democrats to reopen shuttered government agencies at least temporarily. Still, neither proposal is expected to pass. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss what may be largely "symbolic" moves and the latest on the State of the Union.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    On this 32nd day of the federal government shutdown, there are finally perhaps the first signs of a way out.

    Two votes have been scheduled for Thursday in the U.S. Senate.

    Our own Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join us with the latest.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, Lisa, tell us what do we know about what is in this agreement between Leader McConnell and Senator Schumer for Thursday?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All right, it's important. This is not a final deal to end the shutdown. Instead, this is a deal to hold two votes, which will be the first votes on funding that this Senate and this Congress will hold.

    Let me break down what these votes will be on Thursday. Number one, a vote on President Trump's plan that would have $5.7 billion for a wall, plus temporary three-year status for DACA recipients. Then there will be a second vote, Judy. That would be on essentially no wall funding, just a short-term bill to fund government through February 8.

    You will remember, something like that is what the last Congress, the last Senate voted for in December, the short-term deal that was passed unanimously. The president said he was going to reject it at that time.

    And, Judy, I just got off the phone with several different sources in the Senate, and I'm sorry to say that, right now, the expectations are that neither one of these will pass.

    So, why are they even doing this? Well, one source just told me the idea is, perhaps, to signal to both bases, which are locking in farther and farther, that they are doing as much as they can to appease them, but there's no solution there. So they're trying to say, we need to come to the middle.

    These votes may end up being symbolic, but we will be watching them closely. They are a sign of trying to get somewhere.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, even if they're symbolic, tell us what is in each one of these measures.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, let's look at the deal the president announced over the weekend quickly, first of all, as I say, $5.7 billion in that for a wall or fencing.

    It would also include money for border agents and detention beds, as he's requesting. It would have that three-year status for DACA recipients. But here's one reason that the Democrats are outright rejecting this. They say that it also includes provisions that would force those seeking asylum from Central American countries to do so in country, and that includes children.

    So any child who is brought to the border wouldn't be allowed to request asylum under that bill. They would have to do it in that country. Democrats say this is a nonstarter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now, Yamiche, let me turn to you.

    How is the White House trying to sell the arguments? Despite what Lisa said, it may not go anywhere, what are they doing to try to sell the arguments for the bill that they support?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president's argument is, these are compromise bills, especially the bill that he wants, of course.

    He's saying that he got the idea for asylum and for basically telling children that they have to stay in their country to seek asylum, that he got that idea from meetings with Democrats. So the White House is basically saying, why are — don't you like this idea? You're the one who came up with it.

    They're also saying something that isn't really very interesting — sorry — something that is kind of interesting, is that they're basically saying, this is best for the country, that this is all about border security, and the Democrats need to come somewhere.

    It's interesting, though, that Stephen Miller, who is, of course, a very high-ranking White House official, his plan has been to change the asylum laws. So, even as the White House says this is a Democratic idea, it's really an idea that Stephen Miller backs.

    I should also add that Larry Kudlow, who is the director of the National Economic Council, he was out at the White House today, and he said that we understand that there is human suffering, but, at the end of the day, human security is at risk and we have to keep pushing for the president's plan.

    The White House tonight — I just got the phone with several sources as well. They're not sure that the White — that the president would pass the Democratic version of this, if it was to pass, even though it's a long shot that it would pass.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Not sure that he would sign it if it passed.

    Meantime, there has been so much back-and-forth over the State of the Union address, which typically the president would give toward the end of January. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, questioned whether it should take place during the shutdown.

    Now what's the latest on that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The State of the Union negotiations is basically a game of chicken right now.

    The president is saying, I'm going to that — I'm going to be going — giving the State of the Union. I'm going full on. I'm preparing, as I should.

    Over the weekend, the White House sent an e-mail to the sergeant at arms at the Congress, as well as House officials, they say, that we want to do a walk-through. We want to get ready and start getting this set.

    They also say that security concerns that Nancy Pelosi was talking about, that all of those have been resolved and that everything is basically a go. So, it's really now Nancy Pelosi's move whether or not she wants to say, you know what, you still can't come here, or I accept what you're saying and you can actually come here.

    But we're not sure if the State of the Union is going to happen, which is pretty remarkable to think about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Pretty remarkable.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    One week.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I don't remember anything like it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There has not been anything like it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meantime, of course, never anything like the shutdown going on this long.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

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