Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday they will meet with President Donald Trump to resume high-stakes negotiations to avoid a government shutdown at week’s end.
The Thursday sit-down at the White House with Trump and GOP leaders would amount to a do-over of the meeting Democrats ditched last week over a fiery Trump tweet that slammed the Democrats and cast doubt on the prospect of reaching a deal. The boycott caused a political spectacle and temporarily halted talks on a broader spending deal congressional leaders have been negotiating behind the scenes.
“We hope the President will go into this meeting with an open mind, rather than deciding that an agreement can’t be reached beforehand,” the Democratic leaders wrote in a joint statement.
Government funding runs out Friday at midnight, though Republican leaders believe they have the votes to push back that deadline until just before Christmas. Both parties hope to have reached a bipartisan, two-year agreement on overall spending levels for defense and non-defense programs by the time funding runs out again on Dec. 22.
That year-end deal is also likely to include other long-stalled legislative priorities, including addressing funding lapses for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the National Flood Insurance Program.
Democratic leaders reiterated on Monday that they are seeking a compromise to extend protections for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and are protected by an Obama-era program that Trump is ending in March.
House GOP leaders plan to pass a two-week stopgap on Wednesday to buy more time for striking a broader spending deal. The Senate is expected to pass that bill and send it on for Trump’s signature by Friday, with the help of Democrats.
“We’ll be able to put that pressure, get an agreement, not just for this year but next year as well, and we’ll get out of this mess,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum.
Enacting the temporary patch would likely allow GOP leaders to postpone Democratic demands on prickly political issues like a deal for young immigrants and funding for the children’s health care program.
The two-week stopgap does include language, however, that would make more funding available until month’s end to states that are running out of money for administering the children’s health program.
House GOP leaders believe they can secure enough votes from Republicans alone to clear this week’s stopgap bill without making concessions to Democrats. But some conservatives have scoffed at the idea of punting until Dec. 22, which they fear will lead to a rash of spending before Christmas.
For now, key conservative groups like the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee are holding their fire.
“It’s still up in the air,” one House GOP staffer said about whether Republicans will back the two-week continuing resolution. “It’s like a Kabuki dance in slow motion.”
Defense hawks have also balked at the idea of a stopgap bill through the end of January, warning of budgetary uncertainty for the Pentagon.
With that in mind, some House Republicans are pushing a strategy that would include a full year’s worth of funding for the Defense Department on one of the stopgap bills this month.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said that strategy would allow the House GOP to take a “bigger stand.”
“I don’t think there’s an appetite among… defense hawks in Congress for a long-term CR going into the next year,” Gallagher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he was confident Congress could pass a short-term funding bill. “There’s not going to be a government shutdown,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s just not going to happen.”
McConnell contends that there is no justification for Democratic demands for tying a so-called Dreamers deal to legislation intended to prevent a government shutdown.
“That’s a ridiculous position. There is no crisis,” McConnell said. “There’s no emergency. The president has given us until March to address it. I don’t think the Democrats would be very smart to say they want to shut down the government over a non-emergency.”
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney noted over the weekend that Democrats who are hell-bent on getting a Dreamers deal aren’t the only ones threatening to withhold votes on government funding. Some House “right-wingers” have threatened opposition, he noted, as well as lawmakers from hurricane-hit states who want more disaster aid.
“This just sheds light on the fact that the spending system is broken when any little group can sort of hold the government hostage,” Mulvaney said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We need to get beyond that. I think that we will. I don’t think you’ll see a government shutdown.”
John Bresnahan, Rachael Bade and Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.