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

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Biden not ruling out Senate voting to impeach Trump: 'It will depend on what their constituency says' Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate 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.”

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

They hoped to force President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE and congressional leaders to negotiate on immigration, but the president refused to sit down again with Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerIlhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance' Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election Senate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills 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 Ryan Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan California Governor Newsom and family dress as 2020 Democrats for Halloween DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll 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. 

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 MattisFormer Mattis staffer: Trump 'shooting himself in the foot' on foreign policy Former staffer hits back at Mattis's office over criticism of tell-all book Former speechwriter for General James Mattis: Has the national security state grappled with Donald Trump? 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. 

“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 encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Public impeachment hearings to begin next week 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 CornynFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump says Dems shouldn't hold public hearings MORE (Texas) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFive things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Senate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills MORE (Ill.) are vetting immigration reform proposals being floated by colleagues, including a group of centrists led by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump MORE (R-Maine) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment drama will dominate this week MORE (R-S.C.).