GOP leaders face most difficult shutdown deadline yet

Republican leaders are facing their toughest challenge yet in keeping the government open as lawmakers race to secure more money before current funding runs out at the end of the week.
 
Leadership was already going to have their work cut out for them in trying to corral frustrated defense hawks, skeptical conservatives and fired-up Democrats into supporting another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government's lights on.
 
 
While Congress has enacted a series of short-term funding extensions since September, each one has become progressively more difficult to pass. And the latest push comes amid bipartisan backlash to Trump's reported comments about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
 
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“I am worried’’ about the impact on a CR, said Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation GOP centrists face decision day on Dreamer petition Bipartisan support for medical research is good news for all MORE (R-Okla.), who chairs an Appropriations subcommittee. “Anything that makes it more difficult to sit down and come to a deal is not helpful when we have such a short amount of time.”
 
“All these things are connected,” he added.
 
The House will consider a short-term funding patch this week, though GOP leadership has not yet decided how long government funding will last or whether it will include money for disaster aid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Current government funding is set to expire on Friday night.
 
Work on a long-term spending bill has been stalled as congressional leaders scramble to reach a bipartisan agreement on boosting spending caps and providing a permanent legal solution for beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump said he would end in March.
 
Congress needs to raise the spending caps in order to avoid automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that are set to take effect later this month under sequestration. Once appropriators receive the top-line spending numbers, they can begin writing a massive, trillion-dollar omnibus package.
 
But a deal on spending caps has so far remained elusive, with some Republicans accusing Democrats of slow-walking the budget agreement until they get a DACA fix.
 
Democrats have also been insisting on equal increases for defense and nondefense spending programs — another sticking point holding up the talks.
 
Ryan expressed confidence on Friday that they would be able to soon reach a deal on budget caps and avoid a shutdown next week.
 
“I don’t think there will be [a shutdown], because I think we’re making progress on what we call the caps deal,” Ryan said at an event in Wisconsin. “But I think the Democrats — and I understand why, it’s about the only leverage they have — they want to see a path for DACA.”
 
If a deal on budget caps is not reached this week, the CR would have to temporarily suspend sequestration in order to avoid automatic budget cuts. But such a scenario could run into opposition within the GOP.
 
Defense hawks were already threatening to tank the last stopgap measure because they worry that temporary funding patches hurt the military.
 
While many of them ended up holding their noses and voting for the last CR, they may want to see an agreement in place to boost defense spending before they back another funding extension.
 
 
House conservatives have also balked at the idea of another CR — especially if it temporarily suspends sequestration.
 
 
If enough conservatives unite against the stopgap bill, GOP leadership will have to lean on Democrats to supply the necessary votes in the House. 
 
Nine Democrats are already needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
 
Democrats are under immense pressure to oppose the CR without a DACA deal in place — and it’s unclear whether one will materialize by Friday’s deadline.
 
"DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military," Trump tweeted on Sunday.

A bipartisan group of six senators announced Thursday that they had struck a deal to protect DACA recipients from deportation in exchange for border-security measures and making other changes to existing immigration programs.
 
But the White House quickly threw cold water on the plan, with Trump expressing a desire for more border wall funding. He is also pushing for new restrictions surrounding family migration and to reform the diversity visa lottery program.
 
Further roiling the DACA debate was an explosive report by The Washington Post on Thursday that Trump had disparaged several nations as “shithole countries” during a private immigration meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office. Trump later disputed the comments, saying the conversation was "misrepresented."

But Democrats, who were already getting pushback from pro-immigrant activists and other base constituencies worried that they are poised to give away too much in a DACA deal, may now feel even less inclined to negotiate with Trump on the issue.
 
“My thought that we might get a bipartisan agreement approved by the White House died yesterday,” Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-Ill.), who is part of one of the bipartisan working groups trying to hash out an immigration deal, said following Trump's comments.
 
 
“Well I, for one, will not vote for government funding until we get a deal on DACA,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told ABC’s “This Week" on Sunday. "We must not give up or give in. We must continue to press on and get a deal."
 
It’s less certain, however, whether Senate Democrats will ultimately band together against a funding patch in the absence of an immigration agreement.
 
But if the CR includes additional items such as disaster aid or long-term CHIP funding, it could be difficult for vulnerable Democrats to vote against the measure and allow the government to shut down.
 
“If someone puts a clean CR out there with CHIP funding or hurricane relief, and you vote ‘no’ and the government did shut down, you’re responsible for that, and it will be remembered,” Cole said.