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 TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary 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: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding Trump upends controversial surveillance fight 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 ThuneSchumer requesting .5 billion in emergency funding on coronavirus Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick 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 PortmanWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way GOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law 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 ShelbyCongress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus On The Money: Stocks plummet into correction over fears of coronavirus spreading | GOP resistance to Fed pick Shelton eases | Sanders offers bill to limit tax breaks for retiring executives Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding MORE (R-Ala.) said he is “cautious, guarded, anxious.”

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTrump hammers Manchin over impeachment vote Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Democrat Richard Ojeda announces Senate bid after dropping out of presidential race 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer Sanders blasts Trump for picking 'completely unqualified' Pence for coronavirus response Trump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report 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 DurbinDemocrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development 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 HoyerLawmakers dedicate Oversight room to Cummings, unveil plaque Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response 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 GrahamTrump upends controversial surveillance fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' Surveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint 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 JeffriesLawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts On The Money: Fed chief warns Congress on deficits | Trump blames Powell after Dow dips slightly | Trump withdraws nomination of former US attorney for Treasury post Jeffries: Trump budget is a 'declaration of war on the American dream' 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.

Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarVulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket The Hill's 12:30 Report: Roger Stone gets over three years in prison; Brutal night for Bloomberg Three members of Congress endorse Bloomberg after raucous debate MORE (D-Calif.)
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
Rep. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannLobbying world Trump roasts Republicans at private fundraising event Trump faces new hit on deficit MORE (R-Tenn.)
Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHouse rejects GOP resolution condemning Pelosi for ripping up Trump's speech McCarthy to submit copy of Trump's SOTU address to House Clerk for archives The Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa 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 LeeBill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Democrats spar with DeVos at hearing, say Trump budget would 'privatize education' California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment MORE (D-Calif.)
Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding McCarthy: White House coronavirus funding request 'a little low' MORE (D-N.Y.)
Rep. Steven PalazzoSteven McCarty PalazzoGOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall The 23 Republicans who voted against the anti-hate resolution House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions MORE (R-Miss.)
Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PricePelosi vows House will promote its own 'non-menacing' 2020 agenda regardless of presidential nominee Biden cinches support from third NC House Democrat Housing advocates decry Trump budget cuts MORE (D-N.C.)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardLA Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Biden Even in a time of impeachment, health care is on the agenda ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks MORE (D-Calif.)

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTrump upends controversial surveillance fight Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Mo.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Bottom Line MORE (R-N.D.)
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe MORE (D-Vt.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash MORE (D-Mont.)