The US Republican Party has put forward a minor immigration deal that it hopes would convince Democrats to help end the ongoing government shutdown, which has entered its third day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday night that he was willing to allow a vote on immigration reform in February if Democrats agreed to fund the government by passing a temporary spending bill.
The shutdown followed Congress’ failure to reach a deal on the status of “Dreamers” – hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children.
Trump said last year that he was ending the program, dubbed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and gave Congress until March to deliver a legislative fix.
Faced with criticism over the decision, the Republican head of state made it clear that he would only accept a DACA deal if Democrats agreed to include funding for his controversial wall on the border with Mexico in the 2018 budget.
Vowing immigration advocates that they would not fund the government until reaching a deal, Senate Democrats have so far rejected a stopgap spending measure, which was passed by the House of Representatives and would have prevented the shutdown.
McConnell’s compromise allows the government to be funded through February 8 while paving the way for a more peaceful debate on immigration.
The deal would also extend a popular health insurance program called Chip, which covers coverage to nine million children’s healthcare costs over the next six years.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a firm anti-Trump Republican, said he was in favor of the three-week funding bill. Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, tweeted Sunday night that he too was “encouraged” by McConnell’s comments.
The bizarre standoff has put Republicans in a difficult position, where they cannot deliver on Trump’s campaign promises despite having a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
In his 2018 budget bill, Trump has asked for $1.6 billion in funding to build or replace 74 miles (118 kilometers) of fencing in the two southern states of Texas and California.
Democrats argue that the wall is not feasible and is only meant to please Trump’s base.
Besides resistance from Democrats, Republicans are deeply divided over whether they should distance themselves from Trump or endorse his policies.
Trump urged Republicans on Sunday to resort to the nuclear option, which requires McConnell to change the parliamentary rules and pass the legislation with a simple majority instead of a regular 60-vote threshold.