On the first full day of the government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats arrived at the Capitol to continue negotiations, but there was no indication of a quick resolution as each party pinned the crisis on the other.
Republicans are accusing Democrats of prioritizing “illegal immigrants” over American citizens by insisting that protections for young immigrants facing deportation be included in any spending deal. Legislation that the House passed but that the Senate blocked late Friday included six years of funding for health care for poor children.
Democrats say the situation is a product of President Donald Trump’s constantly shifting positions and chaotic leadership.
Further complicating a potential breakthrough: Republicans say they won’t negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.
“I think it’s more difficult to get any agreement on DACA in a shutdown,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy while walking into a Saturday morning meeting with GOP leaders. He was referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, known as DREAMers.
“My advice is: If they got government open again, they’re more likely to get an agreement,” McCarthy added.
House GOP leaders huddled in the Capitol on Saturday morning after some of them privately scoffed at a tentative framework to reopen the government being discussed by a bipartisan group of senators.
Under the strategy — conceived by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona — Senate Democrats would agree to reopen the government and fund agencies until Feb. 8. In exchange, they would secure a vote on a bipartisan DREAMers bill. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that he might go along, Senate Democrats also wanted a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan to include the bill in must-pass legislation in the House.
But McConnell would not agree to that demand, senators said, because he cannot bind the House to a Senate deal.
And Ryan, who did not participate in negotiations with the Senate on Friday, insisted that the Senate needed to approve the House bill to fund the government until Feb. 16, H.R. 195 (115).
“We were not party to any negotiations, and our only message to the Senate all day yesterday was pass our bill to keep the government open,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The government shut down because Senate Democrats decided to hold the entire federal government and children’s health insurance hostage. It’s pretty straight forward.”
House GOP leaders don’t appear to be budging from that position.
“We passed our bill; they need to deal with their issues in the Senate,” Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said Saturday morning.
In the Senate, leaders remained stalled Saturday morning on the issue of when a DACA vote would take place. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to oppose a plan to fund the government through early February unless there is a commitment to an immigration vote in both chambers, several sources in both parties say.
But on Saturday morning, Senate Democratic leadership aides said there was no movement on any of these issues.
Trump, meanwhile, has cancelled a previously planned trip to Florida. The president on Friday held negotiations with Schumer at the White House, but the two failed to agree on a deal.
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to blast Democrats for the shutdown.
“Democrats are holding our military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “Can’t let that happen!”
He added: “#AMERICA FIRST!”
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