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Government shutdown looms as Trump meets with Schumer

By Mike DeBonis, Ed O’Keefe, Erica Werner and Elise Viebeck

WASHINGTON - The federal government was barreling toward a shutdown Friday evening as a last-ditch meeting between President Donald Trump and the Senate's top Democrat produced no resolution and Trump redoubled his support for the Republican plan.

Facing a midnight deadline, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he and Trump made "some progress" in a private meeting about keeping the government open but did not strike a final deal.

"We still have a good number of disagreements," Schumer told reporters at the Capitol upon returning from the White House. "The discussions will continue."
Opposition to the bill among Senate Democrats appeared to be hardening as Friday evening began. Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, who is up for re-election in a state that voted for Trump, both announced that they would vote against it. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who faces an even tougher path to reelection in a red state, said she would support the bill.

On Twitter, Trump wrote that a four-week extension of government funding "would be best" and that leaders were "making progress."

"Excellent preliminary meeting in Oval with @SenSchumer - working on solutions for Security and our great Military together with @SenateMajLdr (Mitch) McConnell and @SpeakerRyan," wrote Trump, who spoke to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the phone late Friday afternoon.

The timing of further votes in the Senate was unclear with less than seven hours before the deadline. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said there would be a vote to end debate on the House-passed spending bill in the late afternoon or early evening, but did not offer more detail.

With time running out, one possible approach under discussion on Capitol Hill would be a two- or three-week extension of government funding, according to senior Republican aides. Several Republican senators had rejected the idea.

Speaking to reporters, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney predicted that the conflict has a "really good chance" of being resolved before government offices open Monday, implying that the weekend would mitigate the impact of a shutdown.

"I think there's a deal in the next 24 hours," he said.

House members were advised to remain in Washington on Friday in case of "additional procedural votes."

Republicans are insisting on a four-week funding extension that includes a six-year authorization for the Children's Health Insurance Program and delays several health-care taxes. Democrats have called for a funding extension for several days that would allow more time for negotiations over the legal status of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as "dreamers."

Cornyn dismissed the notion of a days-long funding bill as "an absurd idea." He said if Schumer met with Republican leaders to work on an agreement, there was a chance a shutdown could be avoided.

Not all Senate Democrats opposed the one-month bill. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, who faces reelection in a state that supported Trump in 2016, announced his support in a Senate floor speech.

"It's the most basic duty of Congress to keep our government running," he said.

Trump and the Republicans, who control all levers of government, faced the possibility of a shutdown on the first anniversary of his inauguration. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans by a 20-point margin blame Trump and the GOP over Democrats if the government closes.

The Schumer-Trump meeting had set off alarms among congressional Republicans. Neither Senate Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., nor Ryan, who resolved Friday morning to stand firm in their support of the House bill, attended the White House meeting.

Schumer returned to the Capitol and met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., for over an hour.
Republicans on Capitol Hill said White House aides assured them that no private deal will be struck between Trump and Schumer.

As Senate Republicans remained short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill to fund the government through Feb. 16, McConnell delivered a political salvo on the Senate floor, saying Democrats had been led into a "box canyon" by Schumer.

By late Thursday, at least nine Senate Democrats who had voted for a short-term spending bill in December said they would not support the latest proposed extension. They joined 30 other Democrats and a handful of Republicans in opposing the bill.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said late Thursday that he was "not inclined" to vote for a short-term spending measure because leaders did not keep their promise to hold a vote by the end of January on legal protections for young undocumented immigrants.On Friday morning, he said he preferred Democrats' proposal of a mini funding extension to allow more time for negotiations, an idea GOP leaders rejected Thursday. He was "still looking" at the House bill late Friday afternoon.

Marc Short, Trump's director of legislative affairs, said that the effort by Democrats to put an immigration fix in the bill was unreasonable, given that legislative text has not been drafted and the program doesn't expire until March.

"There's no DACA bill to vote on, and there's no emergency on the timing," Short said.

A government shutdown causing employee furloughs has never occurred under unified party control of Congress and the White House.

The Trump administration is drawing up plans to keep national parks and monuments open despite a shutdown as a way to blunt public anger, and while the military would not cease to operate, troops would not be paid unless Congress specifically authorizes it.

The last shutdown, in 2013, lasted for 16 days as Republicans tried unsuccessfully to force changes to the Affordable Care Act. On Jan. 30, Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address.

In a sign of the preparations on Capitol Hill, congressional staffers received formal notice Friday morning that they may be furloughed starting at midnight. Individual lawmakers will have to determine which aides have to report for work during the impasse.

As senators awaited news about possible votes, the White House prepared to delay Trump's departure for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida until after a short-term spending bill is passed. The president had intended to leave Washington late Friday afternoon ahead of a lavish celebration of his first year in office that is planned for Saturday night.

With the House scheduled to be out of session next week, several leaders have planned trips abroad. Vice President Pence will travel to Israel and Egypt, Ryan will visit Iraq, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., will accompany Trump to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort village of Davos.

McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said the Davos trip would be canceled in the event of a government shutdown, but that did not stop Pelosi from criticizing the trip.

"Every year the Republicans plan the January schedule so that they can go to Davos. They want to spend next week hobnobbing with their elitist friends instead of honoring their responsibilities to the American people," she said.

The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and John Wagner contributed.

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