The odds of a government shutdown have gone up.
This is a fast-developing story, so stay tuned, but a bloc of Senate Democrats has shifted towards a more aggressive stance on including an immigration provision in the government funding bill, increasing the possibility that the party will block any measure that does not create some kind of program along the lines of former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. There will be a government shutdown starting at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday if funding is not approved.
There is still some doubt over whether the House will pass a short-term funding bill. (GOP leaders are currently proposing an agreement that extends funding for one more month.) The House can pass a bill without any Democratic support, but members of the hard-to-please GOP Freedom Caucus there are balking right now. So that’s one hurdle towards avoiding a shutdown.
Another hurdle is what’s taking place in the Senate, where legislation can be stopped if it doesn’t have 60 votes. There are only 51 Republicans, and some of them are saying they don’t support a funding bill without the immigration provision either. Some Republicans are also frustrated that Congress keeps passing short-term measures. But the bigger challenge is Democrats. Even if all the Republicans vote for some kind of short-term extension, at least nine Democrats must back it.
Party activists have been imploring Democrats for months to stop supporting government funding bills that don’t replace DACA, which provided protection from deportation and work permits for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children until Trump announced he was ending it. I didn’t think, as recently as 24 hours ago, Democrats as a party were ready to take that stand.
But in the last two days, several Senate Democrats who voted for government funding bills in December even though they didn’t address DACA have said they would not do so again. That group includes Virginia’s Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen. And twenty-eight of the Democrats currently serving in the Senate, along with Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, have already voted against a previous funding bill that didn’t address DACA.
Some of those members could change their minds, of course, with a shutdown seeming more possible than before. But it appears that the vast majority of the 49 Senate Democrats are voting “no” on any bill that does not address DACA. So it’s worth at this point flipping the question: Who might be the nine Democrats to vote for a short-term measure with no immigration language?
Let’s start with the seven members in states Trump won who are up for reelection this year and voted in December for a funding bill without a DACA provision: Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Florida’s Bill Nelson, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and Montana’s Jon Tester.
Then there’s Doug Jones, who as of this month represents the very red state of Alabama. He’s not up for re-election until 2020, but he has cast himself as a bipartisan senator. And Michigan’s Gary Peters, who’s up for reelection in 2020, is also from a state Trump won and has previously backed a funding bill that didn’t address DACA.
It’s these members to watch: If several of them announce they won’t vote for a funding bill without DACA either, it will be hard to avoid a shutdown.