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McConnell: Shutdown threat over immigration 'has clearly been eliminated'

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won Biden: GOP in the midst of a 'mini-revolution' Ernst defends Cheney, calls for GOP unity MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday predicted that Democrats won’t risk another government shutdown after they folded two weeks ago on their demands to add immigration legislation to a stopgap spending bill.

“I don’t think we’ll see a threat [of a] government shutdown again over this subject. One of my favorite old Kentucky country sayings is 'there’s no education in the second kick of a mule,' and so I think there will be a new level of seriousness here trying to resolve these issues,” McConnell told reporters at a Republican retreat at The Greenbrier resort.

He said the threat of a government shutdown to gain leverage in immigration talks “has clearly been eliminated.”

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Senate Democrats said much the same after a three-day government shutdown last month.

They hoped to force President TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Ivanka Trump doubles down on vaccine push with post celebrating second shot Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE and congressional leaders to negotiate on immigration, but the president refused to sit down again with Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHow to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs On The Money: How demand is outstripping supply and hampering recovery | Montana pulls back jobless benefits | Yellen says higher rates may be necessary Senate Democrats announce B clean bus plan MORE (N.Y.) after an initial meeting at the White House. 

Instead, they extracted a promise from McConnell to bring a neutral immigration bill to the Senate floor after Feb. 8, something McConnell said he was always open to. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBudowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only Cheney at donor retreat says Trump's actions 'a line that cannot be crossed': report Press: John Boehner: good author, bad leader MORE (R-Wis.) said Republican and Democratic leaders are still negotiating the length of a continuing resolution to fund the government beyond the end of next week, when current funding expires.

He said the length of the funding and other details of the stopgap need to be ironed out, though Republican lawmakers say there’s talk of extending funding to March 22 or 23. 

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Ryan said Congress has had to fall back on multiple short-term funding measures — well into the 2018 fiscal year — because Democrats have insisted on addressing the plight of illegal immigrants facing deportation along with defense and nondefense spending levels.

“The reason we’re having these [continuing resolutions] is because the Democrats have been holding the cap agreement hostage, the military funding hostage, for an unrelated issue,” Ryan said.

Negotiators are trying to hammer out spending caps for the rest of 2018 as well as fiscal 2019.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE on Thursday asked GOP lawmakers at the retreat to allocate $716 billion in defense funding for 2019.   

McConnell on Thursday clarified the immigration pledge he made to Senate colleagues after Democrats agreed to reopen the government. 

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“If the immigration issue was not resolved in the global discussions … then I’m perfectly happy provided the government is still open on Feb. 8 to go to the subject and to treat it in a fair way,” McConnell said of the prospect of a Senate immigration debate. “We’ll see who can get to 60 votes.”

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base GOP wrestles with role of culture wars in party's future MORE (S.D.) told reporters earlier in the day that it was becoming clear that an immigration deal won’t be reached by Feb. 8.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynCornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan MORE (Texas) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Senators push to allow for remote voting during national crisis MORE (Ill.) are vetting immigration reform proposals being floated by colleagues, including a group of centrists led by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell sidesteps Cheney-Trump drama Romney defends Cheney: She 'refuses to lie' The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-Maine) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won Michael Flynn flubs words to Pledge of Allegiance at pro-Trump rally MORE (R-S.C.).