Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising

Lawmakers warned Tuesday that the chances for a government shutdown are greater than at any other time since a 16-day closure in October 2013.

Republicans appear poised to offer a plan forward that would fund the government for another month while extending a popular children’s health program for six years.

But Republican leaders will need Democratic votes in the Senate — and possibly the House as well — to pass that measure. And Democrats are refusing to make any commitments until they strike a deal to shield from deportation hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.

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“It’s pretty close to 50-50,” Rep. Daniel WebsterDaniel Alan WebsterRepublicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers Dems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt MORE (R-Fla.) said of the possibility of a shutdown. “It’s like playing chicken and seeing who is going to blink first. It’s a dangerous game.”

A conservative House lawmaker said Tuesday that prospects for a deal on a short-term stopgap are “not looking good” at the moment.

“There is currently not a policy path to reach 218 votes in the House on funding the government,” the lawmaker said. “For the first time since 2013, the possibility of a shutdown is real.”

Lawmakers faced serious hurdles to reaching a deal even before President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE at a White House meeting reportedly said the United States should not take immigrants from “shithole countries” such as Haiti. The controversy surrounding those remarks has roiled the talks, amplifying tensions on both sides.

Trump used Twitter on Tuesday to rip into congressional Democrats, arguing they would weaken the Pentagon by refusing to provide votes to fund the government over demands for a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program shielding certain young immigrants commonly known as “Dreamers” from deportation.

“The Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security,” Trump wrote. “The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever. We need a merit based system of immigration, and we need it now! No more dangerous Lottery.”

Democrats lashed out at the president at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where the secretary of Homeland Security sought to defend Trump’s remarks. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin Graham GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser MORE (R-S.C.), who said he confronted Trump over the “shithole” comment, bemoaned the different signals Trump has given during the talks and also blamed White House staff for giving him “bad advice.”

Negotiators are quickly running out of time. The government will shut down on Saturday without a new funding bill, and a short-term measure is the only game in town since lawmakers and their staffs no longer have the time to write a full omnibus spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year.

Many lawmakers are reluctant to back another stopgap — which would be the fourth in a row to pass Congress.

To try to get them on board, Republicans are mulling sweeteners, including the attachment of a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the stopgap, as well as delays of certain ObamaCare taxes, sources say.

The idea is likely to be pitched during a GOP conference meeting on Tuesday evening.

House Democrats did not help Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? MORE (R-Wis.) pass the last continuing resolution (CR) before Christmas, though 14 Democrats ended up voting for the extension after Republicans demonstrated they had enough votes to pass it on their own. Eighteen Democrats, meanwhile, voted for the stopgap measure in the Senate.

But that measure only included a temporary extension for CHIP. Long-term funding for the program may be more difficult for Democrats to oppose, especially for vulnerable senators up for reelection in red states this year.

So too could funding to help states deal with last year’s hurricanes and wildfires.

“There are things that can be added to a CR to make it more appealing. CHIP is evidently pretty close. Obviously we got to get emergency aid done,” said Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Overnight Health Care: House GOP blocks Trump-backed drug pricing provision | Maryland sues to protect ObamaCare | Insurers offer help to hurricane-impacted areas House GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill MORE (R-Okla.), a powerful Appropriations subcommittee chairman. “But it’s got to be something that doesn’t cost you votes.”

Some Democrats believe they’re in a better position to make demands on the Dreamers now, with Trump weakened and off balance from the controversy over his remarks, rather than in February.

But there are also concerns from Democrats running for reelection in states carried by Trump in the 2016 presidential race that they could be blamed for a shutdown.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world MORE (D-W.Va.) said he would back the funding extension even without a DACA deal in place. A total of nine Democrats are needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

“We’re trying to find [a deal], but shutting down the government is not going to help them,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (D-Md.) insisted Tuesday that Democrats won’t back another spending bill without protections for Dreamers.

“I think it needs to be in the CR,” Hoyer said at a briefing with reporters.

Democrats aren’t the only ones threatening to oppose the stopgap spending bill.

Defense hawks threatened to block the last funding extension because they worry that temporary funding patches hurt the military.

While most of them ended up holding their noses and voting for the last short-term measure, many of them want promises for higher defense spending before they agree to back another funding patch.

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he’s still undecided and that “we’ll see how the week goes.”

But he added that he “would do just about anything to fix this problem, including vote for things that I might not support otherwise.”

House conservatives have also balked at the idea of passing a fourth continuing resolution in five months, especially if it suspends automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

“Conservatives are concerned there is no end in sight for these short-term CRs. Eventually decisions need to be made,” a senior conservative House aide said.

If Republicans can’t cobble together the votes in the House, some Democrats think that would help shift the blame to the GOP for a government shutdown. After all, Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

But the politics of a shutdown are tricky, and some Republicans aren’t so sure that they would shoulder the blame — especially after Democrats railed against Republicans for shuttering the government for 16 days over ObamaCare repeal.

“They would be taking a big risk, doing what Republicans did on ObamaCare in 2013,” Cole said. Democrats “thought that was pretty stupid then, and they were right.”

Some lawmakers were still expressing confidence on Tuesday that they would be able to keep the government’s lights on past Friday, citing how unpopular a shutdown would be with the public.

“If the Democrats want to shut down the government over this, they can. They have the ability to filibuster any bill in the Senate. I don’t think that will work out very well for them, so I suspect they will not,” Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh GOP turns its fire on Google Overnight Defense: Trump denies report he's looking at Mattis replacements | Inhofe officially gets Armed Services gavel | Trump revives shutdown threat MORE (R-Ark.) told “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”

Ellen Mitchell, Peter Sullivan, Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney contributed.