Shutdown drama grips the Capitol

House Republican leaders are within striking distance of securing enough GOP votes to pass a stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown, which would shift the funding fight to the Senate.

But they aren’t out of the woods just yet. Many members of the House Freedom Caucus are vowing to oppose the spending measure unless leadership commits to putting a conservative immigration bill on the floor and boosting defense spending, which could make Thursday’s floor vote on the continuing resolution (CR) a nail-biter.

Still, rank-and-file lawmakers and GOP leaders alike expressed confidence throughout Wednesday that their party would find the votes necessary to carry their legislation through the House.

Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump GOP lawmaker offers bill letting NCAA athletes profit from their image MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, estimated in the afternoon that the whip count for the short-term funding bill was “somewhere between 210 and 215” votes.

Leadership can only afford to lose 21 Republican votes and pass the funding bill without Democratic support, according to the majority whip’s office.

The House CR, which would fund the government through Feb. 16, includes a six-year extension of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It would also delay three ObamaCare taxes, something that was added to attract more conservative support.

“There’s still some work to do, but I think it will pass,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans Overnight Health Care - Presented by Kidney Care Partners - Dems renew push to fund gun violence research at CDC | New uncertainty over vaping crackdown | Lawmakers spar over Medicare drug prices MORE (R-Okla.), a top appropriator, said Wednesday.

Passage of the bill would shift pressure from House Republicans to Senate Democrats in the shutdown fight.

While Senate Democrats have been taking a tough line, it could be hard for the party to block a bill that was passed out of the House and includes CHIP funding.

Democratic senators up for reelection in red states are particularly wary of forcing a government shutdown over immigration.

The White House expressed support for the House's continuing resolution Wednesday, which could help sway some undecided Republicans.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBottom Line Paul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' Pence loses House office space MORE (R-Wis.) and his top lieutenants feel they are moving in the right direction, but they have little room for error as most Democrats are vowing to oppose any spending bill that doesn’t include relief for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

Leaders gave themselves a safety valve in case things don’t go according to plan on Thursday. late Wednesday evening, the House Rules Committee granted lawmakers the authority through Saturday to bring any bill to the floor the same day that it is considered by the Rules panel – a process meant to speed up a measure’s consideration in the House.

Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryOvernight Energy: Solar installations dropped in 2018 | UN report says rising Arctic temperatures 'locked in' | Fiat Chrysler to recall 850K vehicles On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing Lawmakers blast Wells Fargo chief over response to scandals MORE (R-N.C.), who is acting as the GOP’s top vote counter this week, was seen furiously working the House floor Wednesday night rounding up the votes for the continuing resolution. He huddled with Freedom Caucus members, House Armed Services Committee members and Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Dems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R-Fla.).

The Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners, has railed against the short-term funding patch — the fourth since September — and expressed skepticism over broader immigration negotiations on Capitol Hill.

Some Freedom Caucus lawmakers are putting pressure on leadership to pass an immigration measure authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) and Freedom Caucus member Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) in exchange for their support on the CR.

"We're making progress, yet still, at this point, if the vote were to happen today, there's not the votes to fund it with Republican-only votes," said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons H.R. 1 falls short of real reform MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, as he emerged from a meeting with McHenry in the Speaker's office on Wednesday evening.

The Goodlatte legislation, which has attracted support from both the conservative and moderate wings of the GOP conference and has buy-in from key committee chairmen, includes more conservative immigration priorities than are expected to be included in any bipartisan deal on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“We don’t wanna get rolled by the Senate on DACA and the budget,” said Freedom Caucus member Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.).

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  GOP lawmakers urge State Dept. to label cartels as terrorist organizations MORE (R-Texas), another lead sponsor on the Goodlatte bill, said a commitment from leadership on his immigration bill could help win more support for the stopgap bill.

“That certainly would help, in terms of whipping votes on the CR,” McCaul said.

But leadership, while supportive of the Goodlatte approach, has so far resisted calls to put the bill on the floor. It’s unclear whether the legislation could pass the House, and even if it does, it’s likely dead on arrival in the Senate. There is also concern the vote could roil the sensitive, high-level negotiations on a bipartisan DACA deal.

“We’re working on the Goodlatte bill,” said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests MORE (R-Calif.), when pressed by The Hill on whether leadership has committed to a floor vote yet.

Some Freedom Caucus members are also pushing leadership to fund the Pentagon at higher levels for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year and pass a short-term CR for the rest of the government — an idea favored by some defense hawks, but that went nowhere during the previous debate over a CR.

Both Reps. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneRoy Moore says he's 'seriously considering' 2020 Senate bid Education scholarship proposal would open doors for parents, schoolchildren Public education advocate says charter schools aren't held to same standard as public schools MORE (R-Ala.) and Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyGOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests Pentagon: Trump's 'cost plus 50' plan hasn't been discussed with Europe Liz Cheney: Dems are 'enabling anti-Semitism' MORE (R-Wyo.), two members of the House Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday night they may vote against the CR because it harms military readiness and puts U.S. troops at risk.

Meadows acknowledged that a full year of funding for the Pentagon is unlikely to be added to the CR at this point, but said money for defense spending anomalies and a pay raise for the troops could help sway some members into the "yes" column.

If some Freedom Caucus members band together with enough defense hawks, they could tank GOP leadership’s strategy to avert a government shutdown.

Other Republican votes could also be hard to get. Curbelo has also threatened to vote against the CR without a DACA deal in place, while Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Trump: I told Republicans to vote for 'transparency' in releasing Mueller report House votes for Mueller report to be made public MORE (R-Ky.) is a perennial “no” vote on short-term funding bills.

Still, GOP leadership may be able to pass the funding bill without boosting defense spending or promising a vote on Goodlatte’s immigration bill.

A Republican leadership aide said that vote counters were pleased with where things stood as of Wednesday evening, noting that conversations were still ongoing.

The growing sense is that most of the GOP conference will end up grudgingly supporting the CR because it’s better than the alternative, which would either be shutting down the government or giving leverage to House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHillicon Valley: Social media faces scrutiny after New Zealand attacks | YouTube removed 'tens of thousands' of shooting videos | DHS chief warns of state-backed cyber threats | House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality Republican senators who voted against Trump have no excuses Manchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written MORE (D-Calif.).

And Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin Exclusive: Biden to run for White House, says Dem lawmaker Dems struggle to turn page on Omar controversy MORE (D-Va.), who represents a large swath of the federal workforce, told WJLA he would ultimately support the CR if he were the decisive vote to keep the government open. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’ll build support, and we’ll get there. We always get there,” Rep. Frank LucasFrank Dean LucasHillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction Overnight Energy: Solar installations dropped in 2018 | UN report says rising Arctic temperatures 'locked in' | Fiat Chrysler to recall 850K vehicles House technology committee leaders ask to postpone 5G spectrum auction MORE (R-Okla.), a member of the Republican whip team, told reporters Wednesday morning. “Sometimes, some of my friends want to make it more exciting than it has to be.”

House Republicans may also be eager to hand off the political football to the Senate, where the fate of a CR is less certain. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOverwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line Pence traveling to SC for Graham reelection launch MORE (R-S.C.) vowed to oppose a CR, while Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump keeps tight grip on GOP McSally to back Trump on emergency declaration Flake: Biden 'strikes fear in a lot of Republicans' MORE (R-Ariz.) is undecided, meaning support from at least 10 Democrats will be needed to overcome a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump Overnight Energy: Students around globe demand climate action | EPA bans consumer sales of deadly chemical in paint strippers | Green New Deal set for Senate vote MORE (R-Ky.) said the House continuing resolution seems like it should be “a rather attractive package” for Democrats.

"I'm certainly going to take up what the House sends us. The Democrats in the Senate have been very consistent in clamoring for addressing the children's health care program. This does it with a six-year reauthorization,” McConnell said.

"I believe we have a good chance of passing it,” he said.

Scott Wong, Mike Lillis, Jordain Carney and Alex Bolton contributed.