The Hill: GOP senator floats three options for ending shutdown

Posted on January 2, 2019

A key Republican senator is floating three options that could end the two-week partial government shutdown, including one big picture proposal that would reform the nation’s immigration laws.

The options were offered by retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) known for his dealmaking efforts. He outlined the three ideas in a Washington Post op-ed.

“Government shutdowns should be as off-limits to budget negotiations as chemical weapons are to warfare. Nevertheless, we are stuck in one. Resolving it by going Real Big on immigration could be Trump’s Nixon-to-China, Reagan-to-the-Berlin-Wall moment in history,” Alexander wrote. 

Alexander, who will not be attending a White House meeting between Trump and congressional leaders on Wednesday, described his options as “go small,” “go bigger” and “go really big.”

The go-small option would end the standoff by providing $1.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security under the Senate bill, which includes funding for fencing. Alexander would then add $1 billion “to improve border security at ports of entry, which everyone concedes is needed.” 

Alexander’s “go bigger” option would give Trump $25 billion for “border security” over 10 years in exchange for a fix to an Obama-era program that allowed certain people brought to the United States illegally as children to work and live here. A group of centrist senators crafted an agreement along those lines last year but it was rejected amid stiff pushback from the Department of Homeland Security and a veto threat from Trump. 

His third option would mirror 2013 immigration reform legislation that passed the Senate but died in the GOP-controlled House. That bill included roughly $40 billion for border security for dealing with the broader population of immigrations already within the United States illegally. 

In addition to urging Democrats to be willing to negotiate, Alexander adds that Trump must be “specific and reliable.”

The Senate passed a seven-week stopgap bill last month confident that the president would sign it, only for Trump to reverse course and refuse to support the bill amid pressure from conservative allies and pundits.