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 SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Bipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise The GOP's post-1/6 playbook is clear — and it's dangerous 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.”
“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 RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' 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 FrankenFranken rules out challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Minn.) and the longest-serving current member of Congress, former Judiciary Chairman John ConyersJohn James ConyersDetroit voters back committee to study reparations The faith community can help pass a reparations bill California comes to terms with the costs and consequences of slavery 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 CruzBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions 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 HoyerMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme GOP leader's marathon speech forces House Democrats to push vote Overnight Energy & Environment — Land agency move hurt diversity: watchdog 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 CurbeloProtecting the freedom to vote should be a bipartisan issue Former lawmakers sign brief countering Trump's claims of executive privilege in Jan. 6 investigation A conservative's faith argument for supporting LGBTQ rights 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 MeadowsRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Jan. 6 organizers used burner phones to communicate with White House: report Trump allies leaning on his executive privilege claims 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 CramerAdvocates see pilot program to address inequalities from highways as crucial first step The Memo: Rising costs a growing threat for Biden GOP senator: Decisions on bills not made based on if they hurt or help Trump or Biden 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 GravesGeorgia businesswoman launches primary challenge against Greene Lobbying world Greene's future on House committees in limbo after GOP meeting 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.