WASHINGTON — Just hours ahead of a midnight deadline to fund the government, a high-stakes standoff in the Senate is making the prospects of a shutdown more likely by the minute.
The Senate convened Friday without a clear path forward on how to fund the government with Democrats demanding more progress on a deal on DACA, or Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, while some Republicans, frustrated with the spate of month-long spending bills, are likely to block the current proposal on the table, which would keep the government running for another four weeks.
In a mid-day development, President Donald Trump invited Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to the White House for a meeting. Afterward, Schumer indicated there was no deal yet. “We had a long and detailed meeting,” he said. “We discussed all of the major outstanding issues, we made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.”
Friday morning, the president signaled that a shutdown was possible.
“Government Funding Bill past [sic] last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate - but they want illegal immigration and weak borders,” he tweeted. “Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”
House Whip Steve Scalise’s office told members to remain “flexible” in case the Senate passes a spending bill that differs from the House version. The House would need to pass it before it could go to the president’s desk for signature.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not have the votes to pass the spending bill that would fund the government until Feb. 16, extend the low-income children’s health insurance program for six years and suspend some Obamacare taxes for two years. McConnell’s office said the GOP leader was coordinating with the White House on all the developments, including Schumer’s White House meeting.
Schumer has proposed a shorter stop-gap measure, lasting just four or five days, to be used as a hard deadline on an agreement on government spending levels and DACA.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is opposed to the 30-day spending bill on the table, said he’d support an extension of just a few days. “We’re inside the 10 yard line on five issues we need a process to close the deal. And we need the president to do it,” Graham said.
McConnell said on the Senate floor that Schumer is leading “his own troops into a box canyon and then tells them it was all for nothing. Maybe it’s time to come back to reality.”
The group of Trump-anointed negotiators, the second-ranking members in each legislative body from each party, are expected to meet again Friday morning. This will be the third consecutive day the group has met after Trump railed against the bipartisan agreement reached by Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and made derogatory comments about Haitians and countries in Africa. Durbin is also a member of the group of “number twos.”
At the White House Friday morning, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney briefed the press on the administration’s preparations for a shutdown, saying, “we do not want a shutdown, but if Mr. Schumer insists on it, he is in a position to force this on the American people.” He said Trump is continuing to talk to members of both parties to find a deal.
With the finger-pointing over who would be responsible already underway, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 48 percent of Americans would blame President Trump and Republicans for a shutdown while 28 percent said they would blame Democrats and 18 percent said both parties would be at fault.