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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 SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 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 RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world 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 Franken#MeWho? The hypocritical silence of Kamala Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' MORE (D-Minn.) and the longest-serving current member of Congress, former Judiciary Chairman John ConyersJohn James ConyersHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Chicago suburb could serve as road map for reparations Obama says reparations 'justified' 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 CruzUS has seen 45 mass shootings in the past month The Hill's 12:30 Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated Cruz no longer wearing mask in Capitol 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 HoyerPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Race debate grips Congress 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 CurbeloFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' House GOP lawmaker unexpectedly shakes up Senate trial The Memo: Historic vote leaves Trump more isolated than ever 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 MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here 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 CramerBiden administration faces big decision on whether to wade into Dakota Access fight OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Senate GOP pushes back on list of participants in oil and gas leasing forum 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 GravesGreene's future on House committees in limbo after GOP meeting McConnell says Taylor Greene's embrace of conspiracy theories a 'cancer' GOP has growing Marjorie Taylor Greene problem 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.