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Senate Group Seeking Compromise Funding Plan: Shutdown Update

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The House and Senate are back in session Sunday with a federal government shutdown in its second day amid a spending-bill impasse in Congress. The House is supposed to be on recess this week, but members stayed in Washington as negotiations continue.

Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day:

Senate GOP Oppose Trump’s ‘Nuclear Option’ Idea (11:46 a.m.)

The Senate Republic Conference “opposes changing the rules on legislation,” says David Popp, spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that Republicans pursue the “nuclear option” to get the government reopened. The so-called nuclear option would allow the Senate to vote on spending bills with a simple majority of members, no longer needing 60 votes.

McConnell’s swift rebuke showed the distance between Trump and the Senate leader on the shutdown — hinting at a lack of coordinated Republican strategy to bring it to an end, despite the fact they’re both from the same party.

Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said that allowing one party to pass legislation with the slimmest of majorities “would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created, going back to our Founding Fathers.”
–Erik Wasson, Kathleen Miller, Anna Edney

Ryan, Mulvaney Say Reopen Govern, Then Talk DACA (11:14)

Democrats should allow the government to reopen and then resume talks on DACA, top Republicans said on Sunday talk shows. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on CBS that the GOP wants to solve the issue of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides protection for young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors. The House is “waiting to see” if the Senate votes today. Budget chief Mick Mulvaney made similar comments on three shows: “There’s a long way, I think, towards getting a larger deal, which is why it’s so important to go ahead and open the government now,” Mulvaney said on CNN. — Mark Niquette and Ben Brody

Trump GOP May Need ‘Nuclear Option’ (08:45 a.m.)

President Donald Trump says on Twitter that if the shutdown stalemate continues, Republicans should consider the so-called “nuclear option” in the Senate, which would allow them to vote on a long-term budget with a simple majority and no more continuing resolutions. “The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked,” Trump says to kick off a day seen as the final chance for a rapid end to the shutdown.

Pivotal Day Could Yield Quick Deal or Long Impasse

Congress is holding an unusual Sunday session that may be lawmakers’ last chance for a quick end to the shutdown.

While the partial shutdown began officially at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, federal agencies are largely waiting until Monday to implement it. That gives lawmakers one more deadline to act before the shutdown is in full force.

Publicly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority LeaderChuck Schumer are dug in to their opposite positions. Behind the scenes, a senior House Republican said Saturday that vote-counters were being told a deal could be reached Sunday to reopen the government.

Failing that, McConnell threatened a 1 a.m. vote Monday on his proposal to fund the government for three weeks, with no action on Democrats’ immigration proposal.

“We’ll be right back at this tomorrow and as long as it takes” to pass a spending bill, McConnell said Saturday evening.

Schumer told CNN he still wants a bipartisan deal that sets budget caps for defense and non-defense spending, protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, and provides disaster relief funds. He said the White House hasn’t called him and “they say they are not negotiating — that’s foolish.”

The senior House Republican said vote-counters are being told a deal could be reached Sunday to reopen and fund the government until Feb. 8 with a promise for a floor vote on Democrats’ demand to protect young immigrants from deportation.

Some Democrats sound more flexible about the terms of reopening the government, seeking more of a solid path toward an immigration bill and other goals than immediate action.

“Depending on the commitments they make, that could be good,” said Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. “If it’s just, well, Feb. 8 and just another delay, no, that’s not going to be acceptable.”

Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin also showed willingness to compromise, but said there are concerns that even if an immigration bill passed the chamber, the Republican House would never take it up. That happened in 2013, when the Senate approved a comprehensive immigration plan that was ignored by the House.

“We don’t want a similar fate. What we’re looking for is not a guaranteed outcome, but an opportunity outcome. A freestanding bill is not a very great opportunity,” Durbin said.

A bipartisan group of 19 senators, led by Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin, also met with the goal of agreeing on a plan to present to leadership on Sunday.

“We’re trying to see if we can talk to the leadership on both sides and tell them what we think is a pathway forward,” Manchin said. Immigration “has to be part of the package,” he said.

The White House insists that it won’t negotiate on immigration until Congress passes a spending bill to reopen the government. — Laura Litvan and Billy House

Here’s What Happened Saturday:

  • The U.S. government began a partial shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after Senate Democrats and some Republicans voted to block a stopgap spending measure that would have extended funding through Feb. 16. The vote was 50-49, with 60 votes needed to advance the measure.
  • Republicans and Democrats dug in their heels publicly over who’s to blame for the shutdown while behind the scenes lawmakers continued to discuss a short-term stopgap bill. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of mischaracterizing the senator’s discussions with Trump. Schumer said, “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”
  • Because of the shutdown, Trump stayed home from a planned weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a lavish party celebrating a year since his inauguration. He angrily blasted Democrats, writing on Twitter, “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”

— With assistance by Justin Sink

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