0-With no deal in sight, U.S. Congress faces looming government shutdown
(Corrects Mulvaney's first name in 4th paragraph to Mick from
By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress raced the
clock to avoid a federal government shutdown before a midnight
deadline on Friday after a meeting between President Donald
Trump and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer failed to
produce a deal.
Trump invited Schumer to the White House for talks as a
stopgap bill to fund the federal government through Feb. 16
appeared headed to defeat in the Senate, where Democratic votes
are needed to pass it.
Trump said the meeting was "excellent" and that efforts were
continuing. "Making progress - four week extension would be
best," Trump said in a tweet.
Shortly after Trump's tweet, White House budget director
Mick Mulvaney told CNN he expected an agreement would be reached
in the next 24 hours, meaning the government would shut down at
midnight but be reopened over the weekend.
Schumer said earlier that the White House meeting lasted
about 90 minutes but that differences remained in the pursuit of
a short-term spending bill to keep the government running.
Democrats are demanding that the stopgap bill include
protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented
immigrants but Republicans have so far refused.
"We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made
some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements.
The discussions will continue," Schumer told reporters after the
meeting, also attended by each man's chief of staff - John Kelly
for Trump and Mike Lynch for Schumer.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved
the stopgap spending measure late on Thursday, but it has been
sidetracked in the Senate by a dispute over immigration.
The House recessed on Friday for a week-long break, but
members were warned they could be called back for votes.
The shutdown would begin on the first anniversary of Trump's
inauguration as president, and put hundreds of thousands of
'non-essential' federal workers on temporary unpaid leave.
'Essential' employees who deal with public safety and
national security would keep working. There have only been three
meaningful government shutdowns since 1995.
The showdown follows a months-long struggle in Congress to
agree on government funding levels and the immigration issue.
The federal government is operating on a third temporary funding
measure since the new fiscal year began in October.
Democrats have demanded the bill include protections from
deportation for 700,000 young undocumented immigrants. Those
children, known as "Dreamers," were brought into the United
States as children, largely from Mexico and Central America, and
given temporary legal status under a program started by former
President Barack Obama. Many have been educated in the United
States and know no other country.
In September, Trump announced he was ending the program and
giving Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative
Leaders of both parties blamed each other for the impasse.
"Now that we’re 13 hours away from a government shutdown
that Democrats would initiate and Democrats would own, the
craziness of this seems to be dawning on my friend the
Democratic leader," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell
said, referring to Schumer.
'DON'T TURN YOUR BACK'
Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said
Republicans needed to sit down and negotiate and called on House
Republicans not to leave town until the crisis was averted.
"I would beg them, don’t turn your back on your
responsibility right here in Washington to work with us, to try
to find a way forward," Durbin said.
Trump said in a morning tweet that Democrats were holding up
a resolution over the immigration issue.
"Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate - but
they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown
coming?" he said.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine told reporters that lawmakers
were close to a longer-term deal and should not pass another
30-day funding measure. "We can get there, we’re close enough we
can get there if we just stay on it," he said. "I think we can
get one in the next few days."
Republican Senator Tom Cotton said he was willing to provide
protection to DACA recipients in future negotiations.
"We have another six weeks to solve that problem. It doesn't
really involve government funding," he told Fox News Channel.
"We should take those two issues up in sequence."
Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, but with
Senator John McCain undergoing cancer treatment at home in
Arizona they need at least 10 Democrats to reach the 60 votes
required to pass a spending bill. In addition to strong
Democratic opposition, at least three Republican senators have
said they will not back the resolution in its current form.
Republican Senator Mike Rounds, who had earlier said he
could not back the bill, on Friday said in a statement that
while the measure was "not ideal," he would support it after
being assured that other legislation to adequately fund the U.S.
military would be raised soon.
Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana said he would
support the stopgap spending bill and another Democratic
senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said he was leaning in
favor of the bill.
Both men are among 10 Democratic senators up for re-election
this year in states Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.
Amid the deadlock, more senators were raising the
possibility of merely approving enough new federal funds for a
few days. The idea is to put pressure on negotiators to then cut
deals on immigration, defense spending and non-defense funding
by next week.
But McConnell shot down that plan on Friday. "Let's fund the
government for a full month so we can actually get something
done" and negotiate other issues including immigration, he said.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Roberta
Rampton, Steve Holland, Lisa Lambert, Blake Brittain and Amanda
Becker; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Bill Trott and
First Published: 2018-01-20 00:36:43
Updated 2018-01-20 01:26:27
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