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 Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? 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 McConnellDemocrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' Lawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects 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 PortmanSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Shaken Portman urges support for 'red flag' laws after Ohio shooting MORE (R-Ohio) said Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 ShelbyIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? In-space refueling vs heavy lift? NASA and SpaceX choose both Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (R-Ala.) said he is “cautious, guarded, anxious.”

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects 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 PelosiMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Conservatives push Trump tariff relief over payroll tax cuts Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? 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 DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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 HoyerOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar 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 GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death 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 JeffriesAnti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Appetite for Democratic term limits fizzling out Jeffries dismisses optics: We wanted testimony from Mueller, not Robert De Niro 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 AguilarDemocratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration Katherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck MORE (D-Calif.)
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)
Rep. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannTrump faces new hit on deficit Lawmakers concede they might have to pass a dreaded 'CR' GOP blasts Democrats for using 2014 'kids in cages' photo to promote migrant hearing MORE (R-Tenn.)
Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerLobbying world House approves bill increasing federal worker pay House approves 3 billion spending package MORE (R-Texas)
Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesGOP scores procedural win by securing more funding to enforce Iran sanctions Bipartisan bill would enable companies to defend themselves against cyberattacks Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Ga.)
Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health MORE (D-Calif.)
Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid 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 PriceRepublican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' Democrats advance more spending bills, defying Trump budget requests Ahead of infrastructure talks, House Democrats release 7B bill MORE (D-N.C.)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardMigrants in US border detention centers won't receive flu vaccine DHS wants to shift money to immigration enforcement: report Latina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' MORE (D-Calif.)

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad MORE (R-Mo.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data MORE (R-N.D.)
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (D-Vt.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (D-Mont.)