No GOP appetite for a second shutdown

Senate Republicans are signaling they will do just about anything to prevent a second shutdown after the White House was widely seen as badly losing the political fight over the closure that ended with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE’s retreat on Friday.

Republicans are in no mood to be dragged back into another partial closure in mid-February, the deadline to get a deal on spending for roughly a quarter of the government.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues in battle to save seats MORE (R-Ky.), modifying a well-known quote, told reporters Tuesday that “there certainly would be no education in the third kick of the mule.”

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“I don’t like shutdowns. I don’t think they work for anybody, and I hope that they would be avoided,” McConnell said. “I’m for whatever works, which means avoiding a shutdown and avoiding the president feeling that he should declare a national emergency.”

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump| Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal | Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump GOP shifting on unemployment benefits as jobless numbers swell MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, characterized a shutdown as a “pox on all of our houses.”

“I think the leader wants to see a result come from this,” said Thune. “There’s no appetite for government shutdowns and there is not much appetite for an emergency declaration for a lot of reasons.”

The wariness on Capitol Hill comes as Republicans emerge from a bruising, 35-day funding fight where they watched a majority of Americans in poll after poll blame the GOP and Trump for the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

The White House, however, has kept open the possibility of a repeat shutdown, just as spending negotiations are set to formally kick off Wednesday. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters this week that she would not “get into the hypotheticals of taking that off the table.”

Senate GOP leaders stuck with the president over the fight for his proposed border wall, a key 2016 campaign issue for Trump that remains a potent force among the party’s base. But the threat of another government shutdown could test their unity, especially after six GOP senators voted for a Democratic-backed continuing resolution last week that didn’t include wall funding and after Republicans blistered Vice President Pence during a closed-door lunch.

“There is a building consensus on both sides of the aisle that shutdowns don’t make sense and that we ought to put legislative prohibitions in place to keep us from ever shutting down again,” Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump| Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal | Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Portman: Trump should shift 'tone' amid criticism over response to protests MORE (R-Ohio) said Tuesday.

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Republicans, aware of the political challenges of getting a final funding deal, are stopping short of predicting there will not be a shutdown starting Feb. 16.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE (R-Ala.) said he is “cautious, guarded, anxious.”

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP shifting on unemployment benefits as jobless numbers swell Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators MORE (R-W.Va.), one of the 17 lawmakers on the conference committee tasked with crafting spending legislation to avert a shutdown, told a West Virginia radio station that while an agreement “wouldn’t be easy” it also wasn’t “impossible.”

Getting a deal that breaks the stalemate between Trump, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNRCC turns up heat on vulnerable Democrats over Omar's call to abolish police Shocking job numbers raise hopes for quicker recovery Engel primary challenger hits million in donations MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary GOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters MORE (D-N.Y.) will be no small task. Trump has insisted on $5.7 billion for a border wall, and Democratic leaders have indicated they won’t meet his demand.

Democrats are feeling bullish after Trump agreed to temporarily reopen the government without a guarantee on border funding, and they’ll face pressure from their base to draw a hard line. Meanwhile conservatives, angry over last week’s deal, want Trump to make good on his campaign pledge of building the wall.

“I’m very hopeful. I think that a good number of our Republican colleagues don’t want to shut down the government,” Schumer said. “You know, we’ll have to see if they’re willing to break from the president or if the president moves off his hard and fast position.”

Underscoring their eagerness to avoid a second shutdown, GOP senators are throwing out a myriad of ideas that they hope will entice Democrats to agree to more border funding, like attaching a potential debt ceiling increase or a long-sought fix to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients.

“I’ve always thought the bigger the project, a lot of things fit in and bring a lot of people to vote for something they might not vote for ordinarily,” Shelby said. “Other people would argue that the narrower the scope, you’re just dealing with the essentials.”

McConnell, meanwhile, refused to shoot down adding unrelated issues to a funding agreement, saying he’s for “narrow or broader,” whichever can result in a deal that can clear Congress and that Trump sign.

“Exactly how to do that, as you all know, has been quite challenging,” he said. “I’m for whatever works.”

But trying to attach a DACA fix to a long-term funding deal would likely open up a Pandora’s box of other immigration issues, including the fate of some temporary protected status (TPS) holders and cuts to legal immigration sought by Trump.

Democrats are skeptical of tying in comprehensive immigration reform, arguing the president can’t be trusted to keep his word. Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Senate panel sends Trump appeals court pick to floor in party-line vote Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a member of the conference committee, told reporters Tuesday that he did not think a larger immigration deal was on the table.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Hoyer wins Maryland House primary MORE (D-Md.) said that Democrats would soon bring bills to the floor dealing with DACA and TPS, but he doesn’t foresee them being discussed in the conference committee.

“I don’t expect that to be part of the negotiations. I expect, as normal conference committees are, they’re going to talk about how to achieve the objectives,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday, adding that the objective is to “secure borders.”

Democrats also appeared to reject an idea floated by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Graham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Graham pushes back on Mattis criticism of Trump: 'You're missing something here, my friend' MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump’s, of dropping the debt ceiling into the border negotiations. Schumer argued there shouldn’t be any more “hostages.”

“We ought to be negotiating to get an agreement, not add added elements into it,” he said.

The result, Thune predicted to reporters, could be a narrower agreement that resolves the border wall fight. Trump and Democrats remain far apart on the amount of funding.

In a potential sign of progress, both Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDemocratic lawmakers introduce legislation to ensure US can mass-produce COVID-19 vaccine Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd MORE (N.Y.) indicated they were open to fencing that stopped short of a full-scale border wall.

“We do not support a medieval border wall from sea to shining sea. However, we are willing to support fencing where it makes sense,” Jeffries said. “But it should be done in an evidence-based fashion.”

Mike Lillis and Cristina Marcos contributed.

The negotiators
These 17 lawmakers are tasked with negotiating a deal on border security that would pave the way for passage of the seven remaining appropriations bills needed to fund a quarter of the government.

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Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
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Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerSpace dominance by way of Texas Lawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the APTA - A huge night for Joe Biden MORE (R-Texas)
Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesThe Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached Republican Tom Graves announces retirement from House Lawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms MORE (R-Ga.)
Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeMinority caucuses call for quick action on police reform Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Black Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slavery MORE (D-Calif.)
Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats set tight schedule for 2021 spending bills Julián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates Lawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries MORE (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Steven PalazzoSteven McCarty PalazzoArson suspected in destruction of Mississippi church that was suing over coronavirus restrictions GOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall The 23 Republicans who voted against the anti-hate resolution MORE (R-Miss.)
Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceNational service will give thousands of Americans a chance to recover and rebuild their communities Members of House GOP leadership self-quarantining after first lawmakers test positive FAA chief: Coronavirus risk 'no higher' on planes MORE (D-N.C.)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardKeeping Dreamers, TPS holders in our workforce and communities is essential to the nation's economic recovery The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race Hispanic Caucus pushes McConnell on 'Dreamer' bill MORE (D-Calif.)

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Washington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Mo.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
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Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats introduce bill to rein in Trump's power under Insurrection Act Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Vt.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate confirms Trump's watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Mont.)