Dems harden line on stopgap measure

Dems harden line on stopgap measure
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Senate Democrats are taking a harder line on backing a short-term funding measure that does not protect immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation. 

Days before a possible government shutdown, four of the 17 Democratic senators who backed a stopgap spending measure in December that also failed to address the immigration issue — Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichCNN congressional correspondent talks about her early love of trolls and family Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallEPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt’s job Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release MORE of New Mexico, Pat Leahy of Vermont and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: New EPA head looks to reassure staff | New round of ex-Pruitt staffers leave | House votes to overhaul fisheries law | Trump rips Germany for pipeline deal with Russia Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick McConnell to meet with Trump's Supreme Court pick Tuesday MORE of Delaware — said they would not back the stopgap House Republicans hope to send to the Senate as early as Thursday.  

Democratic leaders in the Senate also took a harder line with their rhetoric, stopping short of promising an all-out effort to oppose the bill but sending a clear signal that success in the upper chamber is not guaranteed if Republicans clear legislation through the House. 

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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerRed-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Trump's latest win: More Americans are saying, 'I quit!' MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Wednesday that “the revulsion towards that bill was broad and strong” within his caucus.

He also said he didn’t believe voters would blame Democrats for a shutdown given GOP control of Congress and the White House.

“We Democrats believe that we want to do everything we can to avoid a shutdown,” he said. “But we Democrats believe that if there is one it will fall on the Republicans’ backs, plain and simple.”

Schumer also criticized Republicans for keeping Democrats out of talks on avoiding a shutdown when the GOP will need their votes in the Senate.

“It is the intransigence, frankly, of so many who say ‘don’t talk, don’t negotiate, just do it our way or no way’ that has led to gridlock,” Schumer fumed on the Senate floor.

Schumer and other Democratic leaders face competing pressure ahead of a possible vote before Saturday, when the government would shut down without a new funding bill.

A number of Democrats up for reelection in states won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE in 2016 do not want to shut down the government over immigration and fear their party would face blowback, just as Republicans did for causing a shutdown over ObamaCare repeal in 2013.

At least one Democratic senator argued at a lunch meeting Wednesday that voting against a government funding bill could backfire on the party.

Several Democrats running for reelection in pro-Trump states — Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampRed-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Beto O'Rourke is dominating Ted Cruz in enthusiasm and fundraising — but he's still headed for defeat MORE (N.D.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices could offer a way forward in fight against mushrooming costs MORE (Ohio), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' Judge on Trump shortlist boasts stint on Michigan's high court Conservatives see Kethledge as 'Gorsuch 2.0' MORE (Mich.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRed-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Overnight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate Dems in terrible bind on Kavanaugh nomination MORE (Ind.) — declined to say Wednesday whether they would vote for the stopgap.

Yet leadership also faces pressure from activist groups to take a harder line, particularly after Democrats punted in December.

Pro-immigrant activists flooded Capitol Hill on Wednesday and urged senators to vote against any spending bill that doesn’t fix the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump rescinded in September.  

“If it doesn’t include DACA, Trump is basically forcing everybody’s hands to shut down the government,” said Brent Wilkes, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Senate Democrats eyeing presidential bids in 2020 say they will not vote for spending bills that don’t shield young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation.

Even Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Dems in terrible bind on Kavanaugh nomination Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race MORE (D-Mont.), who has a tough election this year in a state Trump won by 20 points, signaled he could vote against the spending stopgap, though he previously waved off threats of a government shutdown as “stupid talk.”

“I think it’s a bad proposal,” he said. “And it has nothing to do with DACA.”

One Democratic senator said Schumer did not appear at Wednesday’s meeting to have made up his mind on whether to whip his colleagues to defeat the House Republican funding stopgap.

Much of the lunch was consumed by the question of how to exert leverage over GOP leaders to gain access to the negotiating table.

It’s not clear whether the House GOP will be able to pass its legislation.

Senate Democratic leaders hope it will fail, but if it manages it squeak through they will then have a tough decision to make.

“They’re going to shut down the government over DACA?” said Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (Texas). “Are they going to vote against the Children’s Health Insurance Program? I don’t believe it.”

The House-drafted measure extends funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program by six years and delays three unpopular ObamaCare taxes. It also funds the government through Feb. 16.

“If they do I think there’s going to be a heavy price to be paid,” Cornyn added.

Republicans are facing their own problems.

They control 51 seats and at least one Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (S.C.), has said he will vote against the spending bill if it does not include compromise language on immigration.

That means GOP leaders will need at least 10 Democrats to vote for the measure. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' MORE (R-Ky.) debated with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Lawmakers demand answers from Mnuchin on tariffs | Fed chief lays out stakes of Trump trade war | Consumer prices rise at highest rate in six years | Feds to appeal AT&T merger ruling MORE (R-Ariz.) at a closed-door Republican lunch Wednesday over whether a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Flake and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinKavanaugh paper chase heats up Senate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (Ill.) should even come up for a vote.

McConnell told his colleagues that he wanted certainty about whether Trump would support the bipartisan immigration deal, which also has the support of Graham and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (R-Colo.), before bringing it to the floor.

Flake argued at the lunch that Trump would likely support it if it garners enough votes to pass Congress, just as he eventually signed the Russia sanctions bill last year after initially opposing it.

McConnell reiterated his point during a press conference with reporters after the lunch.

“As soon as we figure out what he is for then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels,” he said, referring to Trump’s potential support for an immigration deal.

Trump has sent conflicting signals. He declared at a bipartisan meeting at the White House last week that he would sign whatever Congress sent him to protect Dreamers but on Wednesday panned the Durbin–Flake–Graham immigration plan as “horrible” on border security and “very, very weak” on reforming the legal immigration system.

It also is decidedly unclear whether the GOP measure could pass muster with the House.

There is broad opposition to the plan within the Senate GOP conference as well, but McConnell sees Trump as the most convenient reason to cite for keeping the immigration deal off the floor.

“It’s extraordinary to think an agreement with three Democrats and three Republicans is going to bind the rest of the conference,” Cornyn said of the Durbin–Flake–Graham deal.