The US Senate will vote on two bills this afternoon. The first bill is a Republican-sponsored one that would end the partial government shutdown and appropriate the $5.7 billion Trump wants for his Wall. The second bill is proposed by the Democrats. That one would simply end the shutdown and provide no money for Trump’s Wall. The first bill will fail because it will not get the 60 votes it requires to pass without risking a filibuster.
There are 53 Republican Senators and so there would have to be at least seven Democrats or Independents that would cross the aisle and vote for the bill. That will not happen. But at least it will give Republicans who are up for re-election in 2020 the ability to say to their constituents that they voted for Trump’s Wall and to end the shutdown. It provides them cover.
The key to ending this whole mess will be the second bill—the one backed by the Democrats. There are 45 Democratic Senators and two Independents. If all 47 of them vote for this bill and at least 13 Republicans vote for it, then it will pass with the 60 votes needed. The House of Representatives would pass a similar bill. The joint House-Senate bill to end the shutdown (with no funds for the Wall) would then be sent to the President for his signature.
This is where it gets interesting.
Trump would have two choices. Either sign the bill and admit defeat. Or veto the bill and send it back to Congress. It is extremely unlikely Trump would sign. By vetoing the bill, though, he could appear combative and strong, thereby saving face. He would be able to announce to his base, “The bill was unacceptable because it provided nothing for the Wall that I promised you. So I vetoed it.” At that point, Trump could simply claim victory.
The bill goes back to Congress. At that point, the House and Senate must decide whether to accept the veto or try and override it. You need a two-thirds majority (a “super majority”) in each chamber to override a presidential veto. In the 100-member Senate, that means 67 votes. In the 435-member House, it would take 290.
Assuming there’s a backdoor deal between Republican leaders and Trump, it is entirely possible that both the House and the Senate would find sufficient Republican votes to override the President’s veto. Why would they do this? Because it’s the only way to end the shutdown before January 29, 2019—the date the State of the Union (SOTU) address is supposed to be given by Trump. Plus, a number of Republican Senators may be facing increasing pressure in their home states (where there may be lots of furloughed federal employees) to vote to end the shutdown, with or without Wall funding.
Trump was checkmated by Speaker Pelosi yesterday. He is now prohibited from delivering the SOTU to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber until the shutdown ends. That doesn’t sit well with Trump. He desperately wants that platform from which to give his speech to the nation and the world. The only way Trump can save some face and minimize the fact that he has been outmaneuvered by Pelosi is to encourage (privately) some Senate Republicans to break ranks and vote for the Democratic bill.
Yes, that means Trump will not get his money for the Wall. But at least he’ll be able to make it appear like a victory for himself. (Remember, appearances are all that really matter to reality TV guys like Trump.) He would be able to say that he vetoed the bill but just wasn’t able to control all the Republicans in Congress to back him, and that that wasn’t his fault. He would also be able to give the SOTU as scheduled and in the proper location and take advantage of that opportunity to vent his frustrations and blame Pelosi and the Democrats for the “growing national security crisis” they’ve created on our southern border.
Trump would not get his $5.7 billion, but he would get the last say on a huge stage. And that might be enough for him. Plus, he gets to escape from the deep hole (the shutdown) that he has dug for himself. Remember, this is all about saving face at the moment.