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.

Government shutdown

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.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Facebones says:

    It’s also unclear which party would get the blame if there was a shutdown

    Really? One party controls the house, senate and the white house. If they can’t even pass a CR then it’s on Mitch & Paul being unable to get their party in line.

    But don’t worry! I’m sure they’ll be plenty of handwringing from the usual suspects about why can’t we all be bipartisan.

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Trump says he will sign whatever comes to his desk.
    A bi-partisan group presents an outline that Trump agrees with.
    Far right extremists like Cotton and Purdue get involved.
    Trump is manipulated. likely by strawberry Starburst candies.
    And we are back at square one.
    Republicans are incapable of governing.

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Far right extremists like Cotton and Purdue get involved.

    It’s pretty astounding how blatantly these two were willing to lie to the American people, and their constituents, in order to curry favor with Trump.
    At some point the country has to be more important to these people than fealty to their dear leader…or the Republic is fvcked.

  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants.

    Remember when using the threat of a shutdown to try and attach conditions to a clean continuing resolution was “economic terrorism”? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

  5. @Facebones:

    I neglected to add the link to this New York Times analysis on the issue of blame (I’ve since updated the post to include the link)

    Also, I’d note that in 2013, Democrats controlled both the White House and the Senate and yet it was the GOP got the blame for the shutdown. In that case, of course, it was clearly an accurate assessment. If the GOP comes up with a clean funding bill that doesn’t address DACA and it still gets stopped, though, that would arguably end up being something that Democrats could end up getting blamed for since they are the ones insisting on including DACA in an overall sending bill. In any case, it is entirely speculative at this point to say one party or the other would get the most blame.

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    The difference is Republicans trying to de-fund a lawfully passed, and fairly successful bill…Obamacare…on purely political grounds. The definition of terrorism. Republicans didn’t come to the table with suggestions, or a bi-partisan deal. They wanted one thing, and shut down the Government for weeks, only to not get what they wanted.
    Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to help maybe 800,000 people, and prevent the impacts that deporting them would have. Cato Institute estimates that ending DACA will cost us ~$60 billion, and would decrease economic growth by ~$280 billion over the next 10 years. Helping folks is hardly a form of terrorism. They are negotiating in a bi-partisan manner. Are they using whatever leverage is available? Yes. That’s called politics, not terrorism.

  7. Kathy says:

    Trump, the original Shithole, could order his party to shutdown the government and then blame the Democrats. His base would not only believe it, but would defend their Dear Leader to the last man.

    Hell, he could shut down the government himself by refusing to sign any bill sent him by Congress, for any reason or for no reason, and blame the Democrats, or Hillary Clinton, and his base would still react as I stated above.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Republicans hold the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court. And it would seem silly to refer to them as the “governing party”. There’s a moral there somewhere. The usual explanation is a split between the base and the establishment, but it’s really a split between the base and reality.

  9. Kathy says:

    Would that the Democrats and Republicans could come together to blame Trump for the shutdown.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: It’s a fair point, but it’s also fair to ask how did that work out for the GOP?

  11. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Fvcking amazing…the head of the DHS doesn’t even understand what’s happening with DACA.

  12. KM says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Pepperidge Farm remembers.

    Pepperidge Farm is getting senile. He can join Trump and Arpaio in the Alzhemers section of the old folks home..

    They don’t need the Dems – it’s purely a symbolic stand because the Republicans can and have passed legislation without a single Dem signature. There ain’t a thing Dems can do to stop them, unlike the previous incident you mentioned. It wasn’t a problem a few weeks ago for the tax bill so WTF happened? Nothing, that’s what – smoke and mirrors to cover for the fact that they stole billions and now can’t seem to agree on the funding to keep the lights on.

    Now, if your argument is it was symbolic “economic terrorism” you need to clarify your sentences because it really, really sounded like you’re trying to blame one party for the other’s actions. How is it “terrorism” when you refuse peer pressure to participate in a suicide pact that will happen with or without you? Let the Repubs destroy themselves – there’s no reason to get involved in their shitshow.

  13. the Q says:

    Since the Dems are so out of touch on immigration issues (which Trump rode all the way to the White House) those neolibs who think that the elderly and other recipients of gov’t programs won’t clearly blame the Dems on shutting down the gov’t and delaying their checks are deluding themselves.

    Trump will proclaim that the liberal sanctuary states are holding hostage 325 million Americans over 800,000 illegals. He will demagogue this to death as he has in the past and the Pelosi/Schumer dinosaurs will have whiffed again on their strategy.

    Immigration is the current Tom Bradley effect – on the surface, people are slightly positive on immigration, but scratch the surface and folks just don’t like line jumpers and benefit cheaters. And Trump has been highly effective in promoting that message (again, the loon is President).

    Of course, the out of touch neolibs on here will flame my comments but lets have this discussion in two weeks if there is a shut down.

    Also, the Dems who need to capture 2 senate seats and 26 house seats to return to power are now saying it will be close.

    So much for the WAVE election. In 1994, the GOP added 64 seats in the house. In 2010, they added 53. The Dems in 2006 added 31.

    The average midterm turnover for the out of power party since FDR has been 25 seats, so if the Dems get that many this year, it will hardly be a WAVE election, more like the average turnover by midterm voters.

    Since the only issues the Dems are trumpeting is “collusion…racist….impeachment” don’t be surprised that come Nov., if the economy is still booming and Trump is still standing – the GOP will do better than predicted.

  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    Perhaps the aging white anti-immigrants should understand that you will need the support of those you despise.

  15. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    If it helps any, as of Noon Pacific Time the host of a Portland radio news show was asking his guest what would happen if the Democrats decide to shut down the government. The spin is already starting. And it’s not “the House leadership is so feckless that it can’t even get its own party members to vote for their own bill.”

  16. HarvardLaw92 says:


    They don’t need the Dems – it’s purely a symbolic stand because the Republicans can and have passed legislation without a single Dem signature. There ain’t a thing Dems can do to stop them, unlike the previous incident you mentioned. It wasn’t a problem a few weeks ago for the tax bill so WTF happened?

    Not entirely accurate. The tax bill was passed under reconciliation rules, which is a very limited scenario that is off of the table this time out. One of the effects of reconciliation bills are that they require a simple majority to cut off debate and be passed, which is how the GOP was able to ram it through the Senate without Dem support.

    Republicans can’t vote to end debate on anything in the normal course of Senate business without a minimum of 9 Democratic votes, i.e. it will never come up for a vote at all. All the Dems have to do to accomplish a shutdown is to refuse to give those 9 votes.

    And I’m afraid this time around that we’ll get blamed for it. Dems have time to play this DACA battle out before March, but this is not the hill on which to die over it. Much better IMO to let it ride, and use this shutdown threat to exact concessions from the Republicans in other areas.

  17. James Pearce says:

    @the Q:

    Trump will proclaim that the liberal sanctuary states are holding hostage 325 million Americans over 800,000 illegals. He will demagogue this to death as he has in the past and the Pelosi/Schumer dinosaurs will have whiffed again on their strategy.

    This strikes me as a very plausible and astute observation. Not only do the Dems have a near-perfect record of getting out-played and outmaneuvered by Trump, but they spent the Obama years cheering on record deportations.

    Now the Democrats think they’re going to profit from a DACA-inspired shutdown? Why do they think that?

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Why do they think that?

    Because they’ve seen the buffet of Democratic wish list items that Republicans are tossing into the pot as they desperately try to avoid a shutdown they’re increasingly afraid they’ll be blamed for (and not entirely without good reason. People tend to blame whomever they perceive to be in charge).

    In the end, it will come down to passing a CR with a litany of goodies thrown in to make Democrats happy, followed by deportations that Democrats get to use to pillory the GOP, followed by this same conversation (only this time with video!) at whatever point this most recent CR runs out.

    At basis, it’s about extending Republican dysfunction into the midterms and using that flop-sweat you’re seeing all over Republicans in DC these days to our political advantage.