Dem shutdown strategy: Force McConnell to deal

Senate Democrats say they have the votes to block a government funding stopgap measure that is expected to pass the House on Thursday evening, but they’re hoping to avoid a government shutdown that could inflict political damage on their vulnerable incumbents. 

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (N.Y.) wants to force GOP leaders to the negotiating table to work out a deal to protect "Dreamers" from deportation, reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and increase discretionary spending caps. 

A senior Democratic aide said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts MORE (R-Ky.) won’t have “near enough” votes to pass the four-week stopgap under consideration in the House that would extend funding for CHIP by six years and delay three unpopular ObamaCare taxes.

“We want Republicans to need to negotiate,” said the aide, who added that Democrats wouldn’t be blamed for a possible government shutdown because the temporary funding measure expected from the House will fail in the face of bipartisan opposition.

Democrats would like to add an immigration reform bill to the spending package that would protect from deportation an estimated 800,000 immigrants who came to the country at a young age.

They also want to fund CHIP for another decade, instead of the six-year span favored by the House, and raise spending levels for defense and nondefense programs by roughly equal amounts.

Republican Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (S.C.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (S.D.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight MORE (Ky.) have said they will vote against the House spending stopgap bill, and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP Michelle Malkin knocks Cokie Roberts shortly after her death: 'One of the first guilty culprits of fake news' Arizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema MORE (R-Ariz.) is expected to miss the vote because he is recovering from cancer treatment. 

McConnell needs 60 votes to advance the House bill past a Democratic filibuster. Down four votes in his own conference, he would need at least 13 Democrats to move forward — and he doesn’t appear anywhere close to having that number. 

So far, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinO'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Schumer: I don't know any 'Democrat who agrees' with O'Rourke on gun seizures MORE (D-W.Va.), who is running for reelection in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE won by 42 points, is the only Democrat who has said definitively he will vote for the House stopgap if it makes it to the Senate, according to The Hill’s whip list

The Democratic strategy is to force GOP leaders to admit they need to negotiate with Schumer and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately MORE (Ill.), who is leading the negotiations to replace the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump rescinded in September.

The president gave Congress a deadline of March 5 to replace DACA, creating an uncertain future for the thousands of people who have enrolled in the program.

Democrats want McConnell to agree to a short-term government funding bill that would give them more time to negotiate an immigration solution, along with a longer-term CHIP extension and higher discretionary spending caps. 

They have support from a handful of Republicans, including Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranPompeo pressed on possible Senate run by Kansas media Jerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Olympic athletes in response to abuse scandals MORE (R-Kan.) and Graham, who are calling for passage of a multiday spending bill to avoid a shutdown and give leaders more time to reach a broader deal. 

Democrats believe a bipartisan Senate bill co-sponsored by Durbin, Graham, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Williamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system Bennet: 'This generation has a lot to be really angry at us about' MORE (D-Colo.), Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott Gardner The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's hurricane forecast controversy won't go away MORE (R-Colo.) could serve as the basis of an immigration deal that can win broader Republican support. 

The No. 2-ranking leaders of both parties in both chambers have now taken over the immigration talks: Durbin, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit MORE (Texas), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Lawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe MORE (R-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Democrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' News outlets choose their darlings, ignore others' voices MORE (Md.).

Durbin walked over to McCarthy’s office Thursday afternoon to continue the negotiations. 

McConnell, however, has made it clear that he does not support attaching an immigration bill to spending legislation, something he reiterated in a news conference Wednesday. 

“Let me tell you again how it’s going to be handled in the Senate: separately from the spending negotiation, and a bill the president is willing to sign,” he said, referring to immigration legislation.

The immigration talks have been thrown into confusion by conflicting messages from Trump.

At a bipartisan meeting on immigration last week, the president indicated he would sign into law whatever Congress passed.

But then later in the week and again this week, he panned the bipartisan Durbin-Flake-Graham proposal.

Trump said Wednesday the bill is “horrible” on border security and “very, very weak” on reforming the immigration system overall.

But Durbin, a lead Democratic negotiator, insisted Thursday that immigration should be addressed as part of the spending bill. He said a mere promise to vote on the bipartisan bill would not be enough to smooth the path for the government funding stopgap. 

McConnell has tried to steer his Republican colleagues away from backing a three-day or weeklong temporary spending measure in order to ratchet up pressure on vulnerable Democrats.

He wants Senate Democrats running for reelection in states won by Trump to face the tough choice of voting for the House measure or risking a possible shutdown. The chance to vote for a weeklong spending bill to keep the government open would alleviate the pressure on them.

“The leader said he heard some talk about a short-term [continuing resolution] and asked, ‘Why would we do that? What does it get us?' ” said a Republican senator who summarized McConnell’s message to the Senate GOP conference at a Thursday lunch meeting.

Cornyn told reporters during the day that the GOP leadership had no intention of passing a shorter-term funding bill.

“No, we’re not going to do it,” he said.