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

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment CNN's Cuomo promotes 'Dirty Donald' hashtag, hits GOP for 'loyalty oath' to Trump 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 John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE and congressional leaders to negotiate on immigration, but the president refused to sit down again with Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave 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 RyanJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea 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 MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week James Mattis: Afghanistan papers not 'revelatory' Overnight Defense: Watchdog to audit company's border wall contract | Pentagon to step up vetting of foreign students after Pensacola | Report finds former defense official sexually harassed staffers 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 scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn House GOP lawmaker wants Senate to hold 'authentic' impeachment trial Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial 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 CornynTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA MORE (Texas) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Lawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Senators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report MORE (Ill.) are vetting immigration reform proposals being floated by colleagues, including a group of centrists led by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsIs a trap being set for Trump in the Senate trial? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE (R-Maine) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip MORE (R-S.C.).