Congressional leaders in both parties refused to budge publicly from their political corners Saturday on the first day of the government shutdown, avoiding direct negotiations and bitterly blaming each other for the impasse in speeches.
But private glimmers of a breakthrough were evident by late Saturday, as moderate Democrats and Republicans began to rally behind a new short-term funding proposal to reopen the government through early February.
That plan could include funding for storm-ravaged states, reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program – and an implicit agreement to hold votes at some point in the coming weeks on a bipartisan immigration deal, according to senators involved in the discussions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed on the Senate floor late Saturday to take up a new spending plan by Monday morning, or sooner, that would keep government open through Feb. 8 but would not contain a solution for “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
“He wants to keep the government shut down until we finish a negotiation on the subject of illegal immigation,” McConnell said of his Democratic counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. McConnell then repeated himself: “Shutting down government over illegal immigration.”
The moderate senators, meanwhile, are trying to reach a deal on immigration in hopes that, after the three-week spending deal is approved, McConnell would allow it to come up for a vote alongside a longer-term spending plan.
Democrats, however, remained intensely opposed to a short-term spending measure, frustrated by Republicans’ refusal to meet their demands on immigration while government is closed. At issue for Democrats is the fate of thousands of young immigrants eligible for protection from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump canceled the program in September, and it is set to expire in March. Lawmakers are scrambling to enact a legislative solution.
Democrats also questioned the ability of the negotiating group to reach an agreement that can pass the Senate and House and also earn Trump’s approval.
“The conversation that needs to take place is the conversation at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where the president of the United States brings in the four leaders from Congress,” said Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del. “We can come up with the best compromise in the world. The key is how to get it through the House and the way to do that is for the president to provide the air cover that he has not so far provided.”
Lawmakers in both chambers were scheduled to return to work Sunday afternoon.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Robert Costa, Paul Kane, Ed O’Keefe, Karoun Demirjian