The countdown to a possible shutdown is now being measured in hours, not days, with cable news networks carrying ticking clocks on their screens — and the likelihood of a shutdown seems to be growing by the hour.
House Republicans spent much of Thursday whipping votes for their short-term spending bill to keep the government open until February 16 — a scramble that was exacerbated by President Trump’s morning tweet that the Children’s Health Insurance Program should be part of a long-term “solution,” not a short-term funding extension.
The White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan later assured reporters that the president does indeed support the GOP bill, which would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years.
Ryan also expressed optimism that Republicans will have the necessary votes in the House, but conservatives continue to oppose the bill. “I promise you he doesn’t have the votes,” Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said.
A floor vote on the House bill is expected tonight.
But even if the House GOP does pass the measure tonight — by the skin of their teeth — three Republicans and 39 Democrats in the Senate have come out against the bill, enough to block it. Senate Democrats reportedly hope to force Republicans to negotiate with them on immigration, CHIP and spending caps.
“While it is possible that members could shift their positions, it definitely means the federal government is closer to a shutdown than it has been since a 16-day closure in 2013,” The Hill reports. And Politico says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already planning for a shutdown.
A Five- or Seven-Day Deal?
A group of senators is also considering an even shorter extension of government funding, proposed by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), which would buy lawmakers several more days to hammer out a deal.
We’ll find out Thursday night if conservatives in his party do, too — and then see if Senate Democrats decide to make their stand or are willing to sign on to a spending bill that lasts just a few days in hopes of making more progress on an immigration deal.