Hopes fade as shutdown clock ticks down

Hopes in Congress for a breakthrough deal on immigration that would avert a potential government shutdown are fading with only a few hours left before federal funding expires at midnight.

The Senate is scheduled to vote at 10 p.m. on a four-week spending stopgap passed Thursday by the House but it is expected to fall well short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

So far, only three Democrats, Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Transit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Republicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin MORE (Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests MORE (N.D.), have said they will vote yes.


Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada Schumer blasts McCarthy for picking people who 'supported the big lie' for Jan. 6 panel MORE (N.Y.) told reporters after meeting with President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE at the White House that “a good number of disagreements” remain, dashing hopes of a quick solution to the impasse.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinNew York gun rights case before Supreme Court with massive consequences  Schumer leaves door open for second vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (Ill.), emerging from an afternoon meeting with Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' MORE (Calif.) said “everything is on the table.”

Durbin said there were “some positive developments,” but added, “I still think there’s ongoing conversations.”

Instead of agreeing to a framework on immigration that Democrats could use to justify voting for a temporary government funding measure, Trump told Schumer to work out his differences with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines Has Trump beaten the system? MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Cutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce MORE (R-Wis.), essentially putting the talks back to square one.

“The president did the right thing. He told him look, you go back and you talk to the speaker and the Senate majority leader, and you guys work that out,” Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynSchumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job GOP senators invite Yellen to brief them on debt ceiling expiration, inflation MORE (R-Texas) said, summarizing the discussion between Trump and Schumer. 

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Durbin’s claim that “everything is on the table” meant negotiators still have to close out agreements on the spending caps and disaster relief, in addition to immigration reform.


Both Schumer and Durbin appeared deflated by the outcome of the White House meeting.

At the very least, a quick fix on immigration does not seem likely. 

White House budget director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE, in a CNN interview, said negotiators have Saturday and Sunday to reach a deal because the impact of a government shutdown would not be felt until federal offices are scheduled to open Monday.

“I think there’s a deal in the next 24 hours,” he said, adding, “I look at it more in terms of what gets done before offices are supposed to open on Monday.” 

But lawmakers are less confident about a deal emerging in the next few hours. 

“Honestly, I wish I knew,” said Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordAbbott slams Ben & Jerry's for Palestine support: 'Disgraceful' Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Republican calls on Oklahoma to ban Ben & Jerry's MORE (R-Okla.), who has been involved in the immigration talks, when asked about the prospect of a compromise.

“I can’t tell what they’re asking for,” he said of Democratic demands on immigration. 

Democrats say they have been clear: They want to give legal status to an estimated 800,000 "Dreamers," saving them from deportation.

They want to pass an immigration deal agreed to by a bipartisan group of six senators.

But Trump and a majority of the Senate GOP conference says that bill doesn’t do enough to strengthen border security or enforce the law against people who slip into the country illegally.

It will be a heavy lift to get an immigration agreement hammered out in the next day, however.

The No. 2-ranking leaders in both chambers, Durbin, Cornyn, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines Has Trump beaten the system? MORE (R-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats warn leadership against excluding House from infrastructure talks Ethics panel upholds 0 mask fines against Greene, other GOP lawmakers MORE (D-Md.), were supposed to be handling the immigration talks. 


But as of 6 p.m., they hadn’t yet met on Friday. A meeting that had been scheduled for 11:30 am was pushed back to 1 p.m. and then postponed indefinitely. 

Republicans involved in the immigration negotiations say there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

“We’ve got to get serious. It’s been really weird. They haven’t wanted to be serious,” Lankford said of Democrats’ attitude in the negotiations. 

He said Democrats are using an outdated playbook from 2013, when they passed comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate with unanimous Democratic support and votes from 14 Republicans.

“Their assumption is this is like 2013, and this is going to be a big Democratic bill with a few Republicans on board and we’ll rush it through and force the president to [sign] it,” he said.

Lankford said the political environment has changed dramatically over the past five years as Republicans now control the White House, Senate and House. In 2013, Republicans controlled the House only.

Democrats, however, counter that Republicans are the ones who have not been serious about replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump rescinded in September. 

Durbin says Trump gave Congress six months to help immigrants who came to the country at a young age and now face deportation. The March 5 deadline is fast approaching. 

“What has the Republican majority in the House and Senate done in the four and a half months since we received that challenge form President Trump? Nothing,” Durbin said from the Senate floor.

Republicans still think Democrats will buckle under pressure and vote for a four-week House-passed spending measure that would keep the government open until Feb. 16. It would also fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and delay the implementation of three unpopular ObamaCare taxes.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters Friday that the president wants to sign the monthlong House stopgap measure.