SPONSORED:

Dems harden line on stopgap measure

Dems harden line on stopgap measure
© Getty Images

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 HeinrichUSPS adding up to 165K fuel efficient or electric delivery vehicles Democrats propose executive actions on electric vehicle acquisitions New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees MORE and Tom UdallTom UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE of New Mexico, Pat Leahy of Vermont and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTexas snowstorm wreaks havoc on state power grid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Dems rest their case; verdict on Trump this weekend No signs of demand for witnesses in Trump trial 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas 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 TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged 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 HeitkampCentrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports MORE (N.D.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken launches Senate bid MORE (Ohio), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress holds candlelight vigil for American lives lost to COVID-19 Two men charged with making threatening calls to Michigan officials On The Money: Democrats make historic push for aid, equity for Black farmers | Key players to watch in minimum wage fight MORE (Mich.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big 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) TesterDemocrats hesitant to raise taxes amid pandemic Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Democrats in standoff over minimum wage 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 CornynBiden pledges support for Texas amid recovery from winter storm Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Biden turns focus to winter storm with Texas trip 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 Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report 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 McConnellTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Hawley gets boisterous ovation at CPAC for Electoral College objection   Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now MORE (R-Ky.) debated with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (R-Ariz.) at a closed-door Republican lunch Wednesday over whether a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Flake and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack 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 GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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.