Deal on stopgap pushes Trump wall fight to February

Congressional leaders agreed to a deal Wednesday that will keep the government open until Feb. 8 and push a fight over President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE’s wall on the Mexican border into next year, when he will have to negotiate with a Democratic House. 

The agreement puts a bow on a victory that congressional Democrats really scored last week, when Trump said he would embrace a partial government shutdown over his demand for $5 billion in wall funding. Both parties felt that Trump’s remarks ensured that he would get the blame for any government shutdown.  

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The stopgap spending measure — which covers seven unfinished appropriations bills — was expected to pass the Senate Wednesday evening. The House could approve it on Thursday.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (Texas) told reporters Wednesday afternoon that Trump is expected to sign the bill, despite it falling short of his demands expressed at a fiery White House meeting with Democratic leaders last week.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, telegraphing Trump’s intentions on Tuesday, said “at the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government.”

Conservatives, however, ripped the plan to pass a continuing resolution, saying it fumbled Trump’s best chance of securing money for one of his top campaign pledges. 

“Let me get this straight ... our chances of getting the Wall will be better in February when Nancy Pelosi is Speaker than now when we have the majority?” tweeted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

“Give me a break. #DoWhatWeSaid.”

The short-term spending bill sets up another partisan showdown over border security for early next year, an issue that Trump may ultimately be forced to carry into his 2020 reelection campaign. 

Democrats will have more leverage in negotiations next year when they take control of the House and Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller End of Mueller shifts focus to existing probes Democrats renew attacks on Trump attorney general MORE (D-Calif.) is expected to wield the Speaker’s gavel. If Pelosi, as expected, passes a bill to fund the government but not the wall, it will be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' MORE (R-Ky.) to negotiate changes — and to decide whether to pass or block the legislation.

McConnell pointed to Pelosi as the biggest obstacle in the talks and said she had to worry about losing support from her left flank ahead of the Speakership vote on the House floor on Jan. 3. 

“My impression is that the incoming Speaker feels she doesn’t have the latitude to settle this,” he said. 

Pelosi at this point has the Speakership locked up after securing a deal with some holdouts that limits her term to a maximum of four more years. The battle with Trump over the wall appeared to strengthen her standing within her caucus.

Republican leaders felt they had little choice but to give in to Democrats after Trump declared in a televised meeting last week that he would “take the mantle” for a shutdown.

“I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,” he told Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (N.Y.).

The declaration left Republican leaders stunned. They were hoping to pin the shutdown on Schumer and had even written up talking points about the "Schumer Shutdown 2.0," a reference to the three-day government shutdown Democrats provoked in January over immigration policy. 

Polls showed most Americans did not want to see federal departments and agencies shuttered because of a fight over Trump’s border wall.

McConnell, who saw his party’s image battered during the 2013 shutdown over ObamaCare, didn’t want a replay.

“One thing I think is pretty clear, no matter who precipitates the government shutdown, the American people don’t like it,” he told reporters after Trump’s meeting with Democratic leaders. 

McConnell warned that a government shutdown would be a bad way to end the 115th Congress, which he has hailed as one of the most productive “right of center” legislative sessions in history. 

A second Republican strategist said it might be easier for Trump to blame a possible government shutdown in 2019 on Democrats, as they will then control a chamber of Congress. Democrats argued this month that Trump would bear all the blame for a Christmas shutdown given GOP control of Congress and the White House.

The stopgap bill is a disappointment to McConnell, who made it a top priority to get the congressional appropriations process back on track. 

He argued that Congress would be better off finishing its spending bills for fiscal 2019 before January instead of cluttering up next year’s agenda. 

McConnell on Tuesday offered what he described as a “reasonable” deal to Democrats: a yearlong spending package that would provide $1.6 billion for border fencing — the amount Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to earlier this year — and $1 billion for Trump to use on other immigration-related matters. 

But Schumer quickly dismissed the offer as a nonstarter, panning it as a request for a $1 billion “slush fund.” 

The stopgap includes several new temporary extensions of expiring authorities, including an extension of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act and two provisions of the Pandemic All-Hazards Preparedness Act. 

It would also extend the Violence Against Women Act and the National Flood Insurance Program into early February.