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 SchumerHouse Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Trump says he 'didn't need to' declare emergency but wanted 'faster' action 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 McConnellGreen New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault 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 GrahamThe Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war Graham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE (S.C.), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans MORE (S.D.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulBusiness, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (Ky.) have said they will vote against the House spending stopgap bill, and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona 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) ManchinSenate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Senate poised to confirm Trump’s attorney general pick MORE (D-W.Va.), who is running for reelection in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery 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 DurbinTrump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business Five dead in shooting at manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire 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) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions 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 BennetDemocratic donors stuck in shopping phase of primary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — CDC blames e-cigs for rise in youth tobacco use | FDA cracks down on dietary supplements | More drug pricing hearings on tap The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Next 24 hours critical for stalled funding talks MORE (D-Colo.), Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough 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 CornynPoll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week How the border deal came together MORE (Texas), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency Democrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans MORE (R-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWinners and losers in the border security deal Overnight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents On The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration 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.