The left is pushing Dems over a cliff as government shutdown looms
The clock is ticking toward a January 19 deadline for congressional negotiators, who are trying to come up with a long-term budget to avoid a government shutdown.
Complicating matters are Democrats who insist that any budget deal include legislation to legalize illegal aliens eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Also slowing negotiations are talks over children's health insurance (CHIP) and disaster relief funding.
Democrats enraged their activist base last month when several senators voted for the temporary funding bill that didn't include DACA legislation. This time, they are putting enormous pressure on Democratic lawmakers to shut down the government if DACA is not included in the spending bill.
Democrats believe they have leverage to quickly get a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because Republicans need their help to keep the government open.
But GOP leadership appears skeptical that Democrats would ultimately force a shutdown over the issue before a midterm election in which 10 senators are up for reelection in states won by President Trump.
"It's amazing that we're five days from the [continuing resolution] expiring and I can't tell you what would be in a [continuing resolution], or whether or not we're going to have caps," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday.
He added that he "can't tell you what Democrats will or will not do because I do not know the substance."
Lawmakers face an abbreviated work schedule because of next week's Martin Luther King[,] Jr. holiday, but have a laundry list of issues confronting them. A controversial surveillance program, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)[,] and the National Flood Insurance Program are all scheduled to soon expire.
Senate [m]inority [l]eader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated Wednesday that he wants an agreement by the next week's deadline that folds in immigration, health care[,] and disaster money.
But he's refused to say if he will whip Senate Democrats against a stopgap if an immigration deal is not reached.
House Democrats refused to put up the votes for the Dec. 22 stopgap, but Ryan was able to wrangle together enough of his caucus to pass it without their help. Seventeen Senate Democrats also supported the last government funding bill.
Activists appear willing to push the Democrats over the cliff, threatening to withhold support if the party compromises on immigration:
Progressive lawmakers and outside group are putting new pressure on the party to flex its muscle and block another spending bill that falls short of their demands.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) declined to speculate about if more of his caucus would oppose the next funding deal without a fleshed out DACA agreement after Trump and lawmakers agreed to the parameters of a deal at the White House.
Trump is willing to sign a spending bill that includes DACA legislation but only if there are billions more included for immigration enforcement, including funds for Trump's wall. This puts Democratic lawmakers in a difficult position, after accusing the president of racism for wanting to build a wall in the first place.
Would the Democrats shut down the government over DACA? Despite all the pressure from their base, it would be idiotic for them to go to the mattress over DACA when the program isn't set to expire until March. There is some talk of Congress passing another temporary spending measure that would fund the government into March, which some Democrats might see as a better opportunity to use their leverage to get DACA done.
Prospects for a Democratic takeover of the House have improved in recent weeks thanks to several high-profile Republicans retiring at the end of this term. The last thing the party leadership wants is the prospect of being blamed if no budget deal is reached because the Democrats refused to vote for a spending plan that didn't include DACA provisions.
But if they fail to include DACA this time, their base will go ballistic. Caught as they are between Trump and their base, Democrats may punt and fight another day.