In Control of Gov't but not Party (Jan. 19)

Update 243: In Control of Gov’t but not Party,

Divided GOP Majority Unable to Pass Budget

Last night, the House passed a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through February 16 on a near-party line vote, 230-197.  In exchange for extending CHIP funding until October 1, 2023, the measure delays the implementation of the Cadillac tax, the medical device tax, and excise taxes on health insurers.  It is devoid of DACA.

GOP leadership hopes that the six years of CHIP funding will force Senate Democrats into a choice between children’s health insurance and relief for DACA recipients.  Few Democrats have broken ranks.  Six Democrats voted for the House bill, and Senate Democrats are prepared to hold the line to protect the nation’s 700,000 DACA recipients.  The Senate vote on final passage will be whisker thin either way.

With five hours until government shutdown, state of play and likely outcomes discussed below.

Good weekends to all and hope no one gets furloughed.




Eyes on the Senate

The House continuing resolution (CR) now makes its way to the Senate where its chances of survival are looking increasingly slim.  Leadership in both parties is busy counting votes.  Passage of this CR will depend on the ability of leadership to enforce party discipline.

Republican Missteps

So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has lost three vital Republican votes.  Sens. Graham and Paul have said they will vote against the bill because of the effect that the continual can-kicking has on the deficit and military.  Sen. Flake has decided to vote against it in favor of the Democrats shorter term version.

Republicans need 60 votes to pass the spending bill, but with Sen.McCain out receiving chemotherapy, McConnell does have the votes needed for passage, even if Democrats allowed for cloture.  Sen. Lee has expressed reservations about a CR and might well join the ranks of Republican dissenters. With the math increasingly against him, McConnell faces a choice between a shutdown or another embarrassing floor loss.

Democrats’ Gains and Endgame

Republican leadership was always going to need Democratic help to pass the CR, but all indications are that the caucus is prepared to hold the line and withhold their votes in order to force Republicans into a deal to provide DACA relief and permanent CHIP funding. Republican efforts with the House bill have focused on peeling off a number of the eight Senate Democrats who are up for reelection this year in states that Trump won in 2016. Thus far, these efforts appear futile as Democrats are prepared to hold ranks to vote down the CR.

Sen. Tester has come out against the CR. That means that 11 of the 18 Democrats who voted for the December CR have already come out against the House bill.  More Democrats are sure to be close behind them.

The two Democrats who have signaled support for the CR are Senators Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin. Manchin’s enthusiasm appears to be waning after he expressed skepticism of Republican leadership’s efforts, alongside the President’s, to blame Democrats for a shutdown, stating “Mitch controls the agenda — he’s in the majority, so if Mitch thinks he’s going to walk from this, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”

Democratic Leader Schumer has proposed a shorter term extension of a few days, which has bipartisan support. The extension would fund the government into next week and would allow Senators to continue debate. Republican leaders have yet to blink, but time is running out for McConnell. Even with a unified caucus he would be unable to overcome a Democratic filibuster. At the end of the day he will need Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown that a majority of the country will blame him for– and getting Democratic votes will require DACA relief.

Trump’s Take

Government shutdowns do not bode well for the popularity of the party in power.  This time is no different: a Washington Post poll suggests that 48 percent would hold Trump and Congressional Republicans responsible, while just 28 percent would fault Democrats. Speaker Ryan and Sen. McConnell grasp this, but the White House may not, perhaps calculating that Trump’s popularity cannot sink below present levels.  The GOP is ready to blame a shutdown on Democrats. Democrats are ready to clobber Republicans who seem prepared to “lock out” millions of federal workers and out citizens from essential services.

Sen.McConnell indicated he wants a package that the President will support, but President Trump’s conflicting signals make it unclear what this means. On DACA, he reversed his initial support for a bipartisan deal to protect 700,000 immigrants from deportation.  On CHIP, the President chided House Republicans via twitter for including CHIP in their spending package, throwing a wrench in the works of bipartisan deal making.

After Trump’s tweet that CHIP should not be part of the 30 day extension, Republican House leaders scrambled to save the CR. Then, shortly after the President met with Speaker Ryan, the White House said the President supported the House stop-gap measure.  Trump will likely sign any deal that arrives on his desk, but the logjam in the Senate may prevent him from seeing anything before the government runs out of money at midnight.

No Deal in Sight Tonight

Sen. Schumer left his White House meeting with Trump today, a mere eight hours before the shutdown deadline, and stated no deal had been reached.  The talks revolved mostly around DACA.  Schumer reported that while the talks were productive, the two sides were still a long ways away, as they “still have a good number of disagreements”.  Trump was reported to have told Schumer to work it out between himself, McConnell and Ryan.  While the talks were “productive,” it seems that there will be no deal tonight between the parties.  More Monday.

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