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OpinionEditorial

Congress should solve the partial federal shutdown

Transportation Security Administration agents and other federal workers

Transportation Security Administration agents and other federal workers not receiving a paycheck because of the government shutdown are being offered free food and other services by New York City businesses. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The personal struggles of federal employees and other ill effects of the government shutdown are mounting, and will worsen when workers miss their second biweekly paycheck on Friday.

We’re 33 days into the impasse created by President Donald Trump over border wall funding. And it’s clear that only serious negotiations, with concessions by both sides, will end the impasse. It’s time to stop this high-stakes chess match with real humans as the pawns. On Tuesday, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that competing bills will be brought to votes in the Senate on Thursday. One largely reflects Trump’s weekend offer of more protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in wall funding. The other would fund the government until Feb. 8 to allow further negotiations. As things stand, neither is likely to make it to Trump’s desk.

Similarly, a House bill including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s new proposal for another $1.1 billion, on top of $1.3 billion already allocated for border security, to pay for 75 desperately needed immigration judges and more infrastructure at border ports of entry, probably will die in the Senate.

But the good news is that parameters for a deal exist.

Trump’s offer was half a loaf

Trump’s move — three years of protection for some immigrants brought here illegally as children, and for some African, Latin American and Caribbean immigrants given temporary protected status after fleeing natural disasters and other emergencies in their home countries — was disingenuous in that he was offering only to give back things, temporarily, that he has tried to take away. Trump’s previous attempt to end the TPS program has been blocked in the courts. Nor does the language in the Senate bill seem to indicate a willingness to move off that position.

And in another development, the Supreme Court refused Tuesday to step into the battle over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for “Dreamers,” letting stand a ruling that Trump cannot end the program. This gives his opponents a stronger hand on this issue.

Like the Dreamers, TPS immigrants need a path to permanent status. If they have been here for years as law-abiding contributors to their communities, they deserve to stay. A real solution also must address our broken asylum system. Trump wants to severely restrict access to it, and one Senate bill includes language to do just that. Instead, the correct move is to administer the system efficiently and compassionately. Hire more judges to clear what’s become a nightmarish backlog that has led asylum-seekers fleeing rampant violence at home to storm border fences in frustration.

Let senators make a bipartisan deal

Some wise heads in the Senate understand all this. The two-vote plan seems designed to fail. That’s OK. Then McConnell should empower senators from both parties who want to craft a bipartisan deal to do so and put that up for a vote. Let Trump veto it, but if both the House and the Senate want to end this stalemate, they can lead the nation by overriding his veto.

No one is going to be completely happy with whatever the resolution is, but that’s the essence of compromise. And it beats the pain being doled out now, both at home and on the border.

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