Government Shutdown Looms As Friday Approaches
With only days to go, Congress seems unable to come up with either a funding deal for the Federal Government or a solution to the DACA issue.
Once again, we find ourselves just days away from a potential shutdown of the Federal Government, with the current funding bill set to expire at midnight on Friday, January 19th, and once again we’re finding a Republican Congress seemingly incapable of agreeing with itself:
Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants.
Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013.
House Republican leaders are scheduled to discuss their plans for a stopgap spending measure with rank-and-file lawmakers Tuesday evening.
Hopes of a deal to keep the government open have been complicated by lingering mistrust following an Oval Office meeting last week in which, according to several people familiar with the gathering, President Trump used vulgar terms to describe poor countries sending immigrants to the United States.
The meeting was to consider a bipartisan immigration deal to protect the “dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including the 690,000 currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump has canceled. Democratic leaders are demanding that protections for the dreamers be part of any spending deal. They have the leverage to do so because Senate Republicans would need at least nine Democratic votes to support any funding measure. Democrats also want Republicans to match military spending that Trump and many GOP lawmakers are seeking with an equal increase in nondefense funding.
“If they need Democratic votes, the overall legislation needs to meet certain Democratic criteria and be reflective of the values of the Democratic caucus and what we believe are the values of the American people,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in an interview.
There is also no guarantee that House GOP leaders will be able to rally a majority of their members to support a short-term spending measure, which multiple congressional aides and a senior Trump administration official said would probably last through mid-February.
Defense hawks, in particular, are livid at further delaying a planned boost in military funding. That could mean House Republicans would also need Democratic votes to pass a short-term deal — something the minority party may not be inclined to provide this time around.
One option Republicans are strongly considering to win over Democrats, according to two aides familiar with the GOP’s planning, is attaching a long-term renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the stopgap. Republicans believe that many Democrats — especially senators seeking reelection this year — will have a tough time voting against the program, which they have called a top priority.
On Capitol Hill, however, there are hopes that tensions will ease as the shutdown deadline approaches. The government last shut down in October 2013, when Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul demanded its defunding. Government offices closed, and hundreds of thousands of federal employees were furloughed for two weeks before the GOP relented.
GOP aides believe that the group of four deputy leaders from both chambers — the “No. 2’s,” as they are being called on Capitol Hill, including Durbin, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) — is more likely to produce a workable immigration accord, which would then unlock an agreement on spending levels and other outstanding issues.
“At the end of the day, if something’s going to be produced that can pass both chambers and get signed by the president, it’s going to come from this group,” said a Republican familiar with the talks but not authorized to comment on them publicly.
But even if the leaders are able to make progress in the coming days, lawmakers and aides say another temporary spending measure — the fourth since the fiscal year began Oct. 1 — will be necessary to keep the government open past Friday.
When the Senate returns to work Tuesday, its first official order of business will be a procedural vote on reauthorizing the government’s authority to conduct foreign surveillance on U.S. soil. Senate GOP leaders are hoping to send the measure to the president’s desk with bipartisan support this week.
That leaves the chamber with perhaps only two full legislative days to pass a short-term funding measure, depending on what happens in the House.
“Even if we had a deal, which we don’t, there’s no time left to draft it,” said a senior Senate Republican aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.
As the week was ending last Friday, it seemed as though the path was clear for a deal that would both get a spending measure passed and resolve the outstanding issue of the fate of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program thanks to deal reached by a group of Senators that included Dick Durbin, the Senate Minority Whip, Lindsey Graham, and Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue. That deal was motivated to a large degree by the statements that President Trump had made earlier in the week where he said that he would support whatever deal Congress came up with to preserve and extend DACA. The whole thing fell apart, though, when the four Senators involved in the deal were summoned to a previously unscheduled White House meeting with the President. It was at that meeting that Trump not only shot down the very type of deal he said he would agree to earlier in the week but also used vulgarities to describe immigrants from Africa and Haiti while bizarrely wondering why the United States wasn’t accepting more immigrants from Norway, whose Prime Minister had just met with Trump at the White House
Largely in reaction to the President’s rejection of the DACA proposal and, most especially his “shithole” comments, the hopes for a deal on DACA have dimmed significantly, and it has led many Democrats in the House and Senate to insist that they will not agree to a budget deal that doesn’t include DACA while at the same time the President is insisting that he won’t accept a budget or a DACA deal that doesn’t include funding for his border wall, which has largely been a non-starter for Democrats. Given the fact that Congress effectively has until March to come up with a solution to the DACA problem, and possibly longer than that given the fact that a Federal Judge in California has issued a nationwide injunction against enforcement of the Trump Administration’s decision to end the program, it’s arguably the case that the DACA issue should be decoupled from the budget so that the government can get funded. At the same time, though, tying DACA to a funding bill gives Democrats far more bargaining power than they would have on a standalone DACA bill since the budget bill must be passed in order for the government continuing to function. It’s also unclear which party would get the blame if there was a shutdown, making any shutdown at all politically risky for both Republicans and Democrats given how close we are to the midterm elections.
Given all of that, the likely outcome this week is that negotiators will come up with yet another short-term funding bill that will push the issue of government funding and the fate of DACA down the road for a week or two. Of course, that isn’t a solution to the dilemma that Congress finds itself in today, but it does provide parties with more time to come up with a proposal that can please both Republicans and Democrats and simultaneously satisfy a mercurial President who seems to change his mind on issues based on who he’s talked to most recently or what he’s seen on Fox News Channel and Twitter most recently.