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Dems harden line on stopgap measure

Dems harden line on stopgap measure
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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 HeinrichSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia For everyone’s safety, border agents must use body-worn cameras Electric carmakers turn to Congress as tax credits dry up MORE and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Hillicon Valley: Officials warn of Chinese influence efforts | Dow drops over 800 points | Tech stocks hit hard | Google appeals B EU fine | James Murdoch may be heading for Tesla | Most Americans worried about election security For everyone’s safety, border agents must use body-worn cameras MORE of New Mexico, Pat Leahy of Vermont and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths 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. 

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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers 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 John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation 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 HeitkampOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma —Senate debates highlight fight over pre-existing conditions | Support grows for Utah Medicaid expansion measure | Arkansas health official defends work requirements Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis MORE (N.D.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem victories in `18 will not calm party turbulence MORE (Ohio), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Republican Senate candidate apologizes after swastika spotted in campaign ad Poll: Dem Stabenow has 9-point lead over Republican James in Michigan Senate race MORE (Mich.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyConservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign Donnelly parodies 'Veep' in new campaign ad Election Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B 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) TesterOvernight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Trump on 'I love you' from rally crowd: 'I finally heard it from a woman' Patagonia makes its first election endorsements with two Western Democrats 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 CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees 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 GrahamCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Trump calls Saudi explanation for journalist's death credible, arrests 'good first step' 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 McConnellMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' Nikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump MORE (R-Ky.) debated with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (R-Ariz.) at a closed-door Republican lunch Wednesday over whether a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Flake and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight GOP senators: Mnuchin should not go to Saudi Arabia 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 Scott GardnerElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Democrats must end mob rule GOP senators praise Haley as 'powerful' and 'unafraid' 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.