US Senate Resumes Debate on Spending Measure to Avert Shutdown

With a government shutdown looming at midnight, U.S. President Donald Trump has put off plans for a weekend trip to his Florida resort pending Senate approval of a temporary spending bill.

Trump had been scheduled to attend a fundraising dinner Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of his presidency, but with Senate approval of a House-passed funding bill in doubt, White House officials said the president would stay in Washington pending resolution of the budget showdown.

Officer of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney Friday said the chance of a shutdown had “ratcheted up” to 50-50 after chances of winning enough Democratic support for the measure seemed to deteriorate.

“We were operating under a sort of 30 percent shutdown up until yesterday, I think it’s ratcheted up now,” Mulvaney told White House reporters. “We’ve had our meeting just about a half an hour ago, a teleconference with a bunch of agencies to tell them to start to implement their lapse plan, the next step in preparing for a lapse in funding, that’s what we call a shutdown.

White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters Trump had been making phone calls Friday to try to negotiate a deal, but wouldn’t say whom the president had called. “We’re trying to keep it open,” he said.

The House-passed bill would keep the government open until February 16, but the Senate ended the day without a vote that would send the temporary funding measure to the president’s desk.

In a Friday morning tweet, Trump acknowledged that Democratic votes are needed to approve the measure; but, he suggested Democrats’ demands for immigration protection could derail chances for the bill’s passage, leading to a shutdown.

Many Democrats have banded together to demand inclusion of protections for beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in any short-term spending bill. The program shields from deportation some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to America as children. DACA recipients will lose protection from deportation within weeks unless Congress acts.

The White House Friday began a campaign to blame Democrats for any cut in government operations, calling it the “Schumer Shutdown” after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Budget Director Mulvaney rejected the contention of Democrats that the DACA issue needs urgent resolution.”There is absolutely no reason to have to insert a DACA discussion, an immigration discussion, into the funding bill today,” Mulvaney said

The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement accusing Democrats of “reckless intent” to shut down the government.”

“Senate Democrats are the only ones standing in the way of a fully funded government and a reauthorized health insurance program for children. This is no time to play politics and force a shutdown,” the statement said. “This is wrong. I urge Senator Schumer and the Senate Democrats to reconsider their reckless intent to shut down the government.”

The temporary measure faces a tough road to passage in the Senate, where several Democrats must join the razor-thin Republican majority to reach the 60-vote threshold needed for it to pass. If the temporary measure is approved, lawmakers would use the interim period to negotiate a spending package to cover the rest of fiscal 2018, which ends September 30.

Eleven House Republicans voted against the spending bill Thursday, including Florida Representatives Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who vowed to vote against any legislation that did not include action for DACA recipients.

A third issue that is part of the legislation is children’s insurance. Trump objected to a measure that would extend children’s health insurance for the next six years, which had largely Democratic support but was being supported by some Republicans as a means of getting the bill passed.

The spending package being voted on did not include enough military spending to please some Republicans, it had no protections for the Dreamers, immigrants who aspire for permanent U.S. residence, and its children’s insurance provisions were less than what Democrats wanted.

House Democrats were uniformly opposed to the bill, forcing negotiations between House Speaker Ryan and the conservative House Freedom Caucus to ensure the bill would pass. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows secured commitments for future votes on military funding and a permanent legislative solution for the DACA program.

In September, President Trump ordered an end to the Obama administration program that shielded young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The U.S. government has shut down before. The last time was in 2013, in a deadlock over health care policy. The shutdown lasted 16 days and furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

What stops and what continues during a federal shutdown varies, but federal research projects could be stalled, national parks closed, tax refunds delayed, processing of veterans’ disability applications delayed, and federal nutrition programs suspended, as was the case in 2013.

The government has officially shut down 18 times since 1976, when the current federal budgeting process was instituted.

Michael Bowman on Capitol Hill contributed to this article.

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