Chances for government shutdown rising

The odds of a government shutdown grew dramatically Tuesday as President Trump tweeted that he saw no path to a year-end deal with Democrats “Chuck and Nancy,” who then promptly backed out of a meeting at the White House.

Shortly after Trump’s “I don’t see a deal!” tweet, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Hoyer suggests Dems won't support spending bill without DACA fix Trump’s first year in office was the year of the woman MORE (Calif.) said they didn’t see the point of sitting down with Trump. 

“If the President, who already said earlier this year that ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’ isn’t interested in addressing the difficult year end agenda,” the Democrats said in a statement, “we’ll work with those Republicans who are, as we did in April.”

Later, at the White House, flanked by empty chairs with name cards for Schumer and Pelosi, Trump said he was “not surprised” by the move and accused the Democrats of being “all talk” and “no action.”

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“Now it’s even worse. Now it’s not even talk. Now they’re not even showing up to the meeting,” Trump said. 

The president said he would blame Schumer and Pelosi if the government shuts down.  

“If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats,” he said.

The blow-up sent shockwaves through Washington as lawmakers, aides, lobbyists and reporters openly wondered whether the coming holiday season would be consumed by a new crisis over government funding.

There are just eight legislative days left before funding runs out for the federal government on Dec. 8, yet Congress appears no closer to a major spending deal today than it did before the weeklong Thanksgiving recess.

Congressional leaders have said a one-week stopgap funding measure may be needed to buy lawmakers and Trump more time to reach a year-end deal, but a number of other prickly legislative items are complicating the negotiations.

Schumer and Pelosi insist they won’t help pass a trillion-dollar spending package unless Republicans agree to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrant “Dreamers” now at risk of deportation following Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year MORE (R-Wis.) is working on a solution but has made clear the funding bill and immigration issue will be taken up separately. 

Congress is also trying to pass tens of billions more in disaster aid and renew the children’s health-care program known as CHIP, a national flood insurance program and a critical U.S. surveillance program, all as Republicans try to send a major tax overhaul to Trump’s desk by Christmas.

On top of that, Congress has been rocked by the sexual harassment allegations made against GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota EMILY’s List president: Franken did 'right thing for Minnesota' Dem pledges to ask all court nominees about sexual harassment history under oath MORE (D-Minn.) and the longest-serving current member of Congress, former Judiciary Chairman John ConyersJohn James ConyersWoman accuses New York state senator of sexual misconduct Dissatisfaction with position of women in US hits new high Republicans on the run: Retirements could be trouble for Trump and party MORE Jr. (D-Mich.), with some calling for legislation to address the issue.

It’s a daunting to-do list, but some more optimistic lawmakers and aides are warning colleagues not to cancel their holiday plans just yet.

For one, Republicans have little incentive to see a shutdown while they have control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. A shutdown, similar to the one Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas) helped force over ObamaCare repeal in 2013, would overshadow any year-end GOP victory on tax reform. And it would confirm what many pundits have been saying in Washington all year: Republicans can’t govern.

“I think a shutdown is very unlikely,” one House Democrat told The Hill on Tuesday. Republicans “need a win badly and this would be bad for them.”

“Paul Ryan isn’t dumb.”

The Democrat was “unsure if Pelosi plays chicken” with Republicans over DACA and risks a government shutdown. “I don’t think she’s decided yet.”

Pelosi’s top deputy, Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Hoyer suggests Dems won't support spending bill without DACA fix MORE (D-Md.), said his party is pushing hard to get a DACA fix done this year. But he stopped short of demanding it, saying he’s skeptical it’ll happen before 2018 “given the president’s comments and given Mr. Ryan’s reluctance” to bring legislation to the floor.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t do anything. But I’m not very confident they’re going to put it on the floor,” Hoyer told reporters at a briefing Tuesday.

But if Ryan tries to push through a spending package next month without addressing the immigration issue, he won’t just lose Democrats. He’ll also lose some Republicans such as Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House GOP Rep. Mia Love calls Trump's 's---hole' comment racist: 'I can't defend the indefensible' MORE (Fla.).

The Cuban-American lawmaker from Miami, a Democratic target in next year’s election, said Tuesday he would not vote to fund the government past Dec. 31 until the fate of the Dreamers is permanently resolved.

“We cannot allow their future to continue to be questioned into the new year,” Curbelo said. “Lives and livelihoods are on the line, and time is running out. We can and should get this done.”

One escape hatch for Congress would be to punt the spending fight into early 2018, either with a one-month continuing resolution (CR) or perhaps a three-month CR that would fund the government at current levels and align with the March 5 deadline for the expiration of DACA.

“Never underestimate the ability of Washington to kick the can down the road,” said one Republican Appropriations Committee source. “A CR is eminently more likely than a shutdown and would pave the way for focus on tax reform.”

That idea is favored by key conservatives, including Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFreedom Caucus chair: GOP leaders don't have votes to avoid shutdown GOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown House to consider another short-term spending bill MORE (R-N.C.), who’s frequently warned that rushed bipartisan spending deals right before Christmas never end well for conservatives.

“I would vote for a short-term CR that allows us more time to work with the Senate with a Jan. 15 expiration date,” Meadows, a Trump ally, told The Hill. “Certainly a CR coming due in January is much more preferable than an expiration date a few days before Christmas.”

Another Trump ally, Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota GOP's Cramer won't run for ND Senate seat GOP angst over midterms grows MORE (R-N.D.), agreed.

“The crunch of the holidays can cause hasty decisions,” said Cramer, adding that the three-month spending deal Trump struck with Schumer and Pelosi in September was bad for Republicans. “We need to regain high ground. Let’s get taxes done right and regain momentum.”

House GOP appropriators, however, aren’t throwing in the towel just yet. Earlier this fall, they passed all 12 appropriations bills out of committee and on the House floor, and appropriators feel they have momentum now to pass a funding package that will keep the government’s lights on through the 2018 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

“A CR is a tool for the minority party, and they want to use it to stop the president’s agenda,” said Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector DHS giving ‘active defense’ cyber tools to private sector, secretary says GOP may increase IRS’s budget MORE (R-Ga.), who’s known as an Appropriations cardinal because he chairs one of the panel’s subcommittees. 

“The House did its job, the Senate needs to do theirs,” Graves said. “They can tackle more than one task at a time.”

Mike Lillis and Jordan Fabian contributed to this report, which was updated on Nov. 29 at 10:34 a.m.