US Senate leaders have agreed to vote on Thursday on competing for proposals to end a government shutdown now in its second month, but the chances are slim that either will reopen federal agencies.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Democrat Chuck Schumer announced an agreement on the Senate floor Tuesday for a pair of test votes.
The first would be a procedural step on a measure that funds all shuttered branches of government through September and includes President Donald Trump's demand for border wall funding and his proposal on immigration policy.
A second vote would be on a stop-gap measure that funds the government until February 8, to allow for debate over border security and immigration, while also letting Trump's upcoming State of the Union address before Congress proceed.
It also would include disaster relief money already passed in the House. Each proposal would require 60 votes to advance in the 100-member body, a high threshold, given the current level of partisan rancour over who is to blame for the shutdown.
A senior Republican Senate aide told AFP it was unlikely Republicans would sign on to the short-term funding bill, and that even if they did, the president would not sign it.
But the Democratic leader took to the floor to say the votes "could break us out of the morass we are in," and he specifically encouraged Republicans to sign on to the stop-gap bill to briefly open government.
"It will allow us to then debate, without hostage-taking, without temper tantrum... how we can best do border security," he said.