How Many Senate Republicans Will Crack?
The main question today, now that the House passed its government funding bills -- the ones that the Senate favored as recently as a week ago -- is how much pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell feels to bring the measures to the floor.
On the "he won't" side, President Trump said he'll veto the package if it passes, and many of his members care a lot more about what Trump and Trump voters think than what Democrats or the rest of the country thinks. So, McConnell has said repeatedly he will not move anything that the president has not agreed to sign.
Still, there are at least a half dozen Republicans up for election in 2020 who have to be concerned about being seen as reasonable and able to make government work.
Consider that the Democrats' bills are pretty reasonable by most standards, and indeed, two of McConnell's members expressed non-specific support yesterday to pass the six bills the Senate already supported last year, and to pass a short-term bill for the Department of Homeland Security so all sides can debate border security.
Here's how Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner put it: “As I said on the night the partial government shutdown began, I do not think shutting down the government is ever the right answer. We should pass the bipartisan appropriations bills that includes money for border security while we continue to fight for more border security money. Congress needs to take further action on border security but that work should be done when the government is fully open.”
Similarly, Maine Sen. Susan Collins is quoted in Politico saying: "My goal is to get government reopened as fast as possible. And six of those bills, we’ve got agreements on and so I’d like to see those signed into law," she said of the non-DHS legislation."
Compare that to what New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the new chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, had to say at the Democrats' press conference last night.
"We just sat together and said, 'There are six bills that [were passed] by the Senate. Some by the full Senate, some by the committees, but it was unanimous,'" Lowey said. "So we thought if we want to open government and not have a shutdown, let's take that bill, those six bills, pass them here and then give everybody a month to work on differences in the Homeland Security bill. This isn't very complicated."
That's probably not enough to sway McConnell when you consider what's on the other side if he does move the funding. That's the veto. Can McConnell -- who also faces reelection in 2020 -- challenge a veto by Trump, who is more popular in Kentucky than the senior senator is? Many of his members have the same problem.
The other issue today is more of Democrats laying down a marker for 2020 and beyond by rolling out a package of reform bills, largely aimed at campaigns and campaign finance. It's H.R. 1, the For the People Act. It seeks tax returns for the president and vice presidential candidates, election security improvement, the reversal of Citizens United ruling, and a new public financing setup designed to encourage regular citizens to be low-dollar campaign donors. Vox had a good round up of what's in it.
This won't pass now, but it's another bipartisan issue that Democrats will point to, much like the shutdown legislation.