Lawmakers head toward a government shutdown showdown amid DACA fight


Republicans and Democrats scrambled Thursday to avoid a government shutdown — with a short-term spending bill to keep the government open heading to the House and Senate possibly lacking vital support in both chambers.

House Republicans will look to push an interim spending bill on Thursday afternoon to run the government through to Feb. 16, a move that would avoid an impending shutdown due to start late Friday night. 

That bill includes a multi-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), but is absent of any language to legalize the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) for illegal immigrants brought to the country as children — something Democrats and even some Republicans had wanted in any spending bill.

President Trump has said that he wants DACA, which is set to expire in March, to be formalized as part of a separate deal that includes significant border security measures including funding for a border wall.

The political calculation from Republicans appears to be to stare down Democrats and see if they are prepared to vote against extending children’s health insurance over the issue of illegal immigrants. 

“If the Senate Democrats want to shut the government down, if they want to shut down the military, if they want to shut down CHIP, that’s their decision to make,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters.

The split is not entirely along party lines, with some Republicans opposed to extending a long line of emergency bills to fund the government. Congress approved a continuing resolution in September, with two more in December.

President Trump, taking to Twitter Thursday, urged a long-term solution and warned about the effects a shutdown would have on the military. He also demanded a long-term solution to CHIP.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, quickly tweeted to clarify that the short-term resolution did indeed include a multi-year CHIP extension.

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In remarks to reporters outside the Pentagon Thursday, Trump focused on the military again.

“The group that loses big would be the military and we’re never letting our military lose at any point,” he said.

Asked if there was going to be a shutdown, he said “it could happen, it’s up to the Democrats.”

Bipartisan talks took place Wednesday, including talks between members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly but appear not have been fruitful, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., saying there was good will but “no progress.”

Some Republicans are unhappy that an increase in military spending has not been secured, while others like Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., are aligning with Democrats in complaining that the bill lacks a DACA fix. It is also unclear if the conservative House Freedom Caucus would vote for the bill, where members want a two-year spending bell.

“They do not have the votes,” Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said. “Now, I’m not saying they won’t have the votes….”

House Republicans have some wiggle room but not much. They can lose 23 votes, but any more than that and they would need Democratic support in order to get the bill over the finish line. But without a DACA fix, it seems unlikely to attract much Democratic support.

“This is like giving you a bowl of doggie-do, putting a cherry on top and calling it a chocolate sundae,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said about the addition of CHIP funding to the bill.

In the Senate, the picture for Republicans is not much rosier. There, they need 60 votes in order to avoid a filibuster. With Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., convalescing after cancer surgery, it means that Republicans need 10 Democrats to get to 60. But Democrats say they are very opposed to the bill.

“The overwhelming number in our caucus have said they don’t like this deal and they believe if we kick the can down the road this time we’ll be back where we started from next time,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said. “So there’s very, very strong support not to go along with their deal.”

However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wavered somewhat when asked if she would vote for a short term CR.

“If we have to, yes,” she said. “I hope not. So it’s just that difficult precipitous time before you know what’s gonna happen.”  

When the Senate approved a similar bill in December, 17 Democrats voted to keep the government open, seven of those coming from states in which Trump won in November 2016. 

The need for 10 Democrats presumes full Republican support, but as of yet, the bill does not have that.

“I’m not going to vote for a CR. You’re destroying the military here,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said on Fox News that he didn’t know if they had enough votes to pass the CR.

“We don’t know if they’ll come to their senses or not,” he said about holdout Republicans.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., meanwhile admitted that it will take “a little whip work” to get to 60 votes.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, John Roberts, Jason Donner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.