Opinion writer

* Erica Werner, John Wagner, and Mike DeBonis report that Democrats have a new offer for Trump:

House Democrats are prepared to support increased spending on border security, but not a wall, if President Trump agrees to reopen the government first, lawmakers and aides said Wednesday.

The proposal, which Democrats are drafting into a formal letter to Trump, will include border security improvements such as retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures.

The letter was not final, and the exact figure Democrats will suggest was not yet determined, but lawmakers and aides said it would be higher than the levels Democrats have supported in the past, which have ranged from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.

If they can somehow get the word WALL into the title of the bill, maybe he won’t realize it doesn’t fund a wall and he’ll sign it.

* Alexander Burns has the interesting story of a lucrative Joe Biden speech just before the midterm elections that might make some Democrats mad:

Joseph R. Biden Jr. swept into Benton Harbor, Mich., three weeks before the November elections, in the midst of his quest to reclaim the Midwest for Democrats. He took the stage at Lake Michigan College as Representative Fred Upton, a long-serving Republican from the area, faced the toughest race of his career.

But Mr. Biden was not there to denounce Mr. Upton. Instead, he was collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience, according to a speaking contract obtained by The New York Times and interviews with organizers. The group, a business-minded civic organization, is supported in part by an Upton family foundation.

Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience. Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer — and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks, coming amid a wide-ranging discourse on American politics, quickly appeared in Republican advertising. The local Democratic Party pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error, to no avail. On Nov. 6, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.

This is a reminder that these days, being anything but a passionate partisan isn’t going to play well with primary voters.

* A new Associated Press poll finds that Trump’s approval rating has skidded down to 34 percent, with 60 percent saying he bears a great deal of blame for the shutdown. So much winning!

* Azeen Ghorayshi has the grand plans that were drawn up for the never-built Trump Tower Moscow.

* Dan Witters reports that the uninsured rate has risen to its highest level since the Affordable Care Act was implemented. Thanks, Trump administration!

* Jonathan Cohn examines the complexities of public opinion on Medicare For All.

* Amanda Marcotte explains why Democrats absolutely must stand firm on the shutdown.

* Ryan Cooper explains how Democrats can make sure this never happens again, by making government shutdowns impossible under the law.

* Dahlia Lithwick gives a status report on all the conservative judges Mitch McConnell is pushing through during the shutdown.

* Adam Serwer has a good piece explaining how the media did wrong in covering both the Covington and Buzzfeed controversies, and how this reflects a bad habit of the Trump era.

* And Michelle Kosinski and Jennifer Hansler report that because Trump has shut down the government to get his border wall, the State Department had to cancel a conference on...border security.