March 23, 2019, 4:48

Lawmakers negotiate as the clock ticks closer toward a midnight government shutdown

Lawmakers negotiate as the clock ticks closer toward a midnight government shutdown

Unless there is an eleventh hour legislative Hail Mary, the federal government is shutting down within the hour.

The Senate is poised to reject the House-passed bill that would have funded the government through Feb. 16, and, despite some last minute momentum around a shorter, temporary fix, the federal government is now on the brink of a shutdown.

It’s been a night of frantic behind closed-doors negotiations as lawmakers held out hope for a bipartisan solution.

Senators were still discussing a shorter plan to fund the government as the deadline drew ever closer — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walked off the floor with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, chatting on the sidelines — but no clear plan has emerged.

Earlier in the evening, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., floated the possibility of a three-week extension through Feb. 8. He was spotted shuffling between McConnell and Schumer’s offices acting as a go-between.

The procedural vote that was held open could have happened hours earlier, but McConnell opted to force this late night vote, upping the pressure on Democrats.

Democrats are standing firm, opposing the bill over their demands that it include protections for Dreamers, who are poised to lose their legal protections come March 5.

Five Democrats have voted with Republicans to fund the government — all of them facing tough reelection battles in the coming months in states Trump handily won in the 2016 election. Those lawmakers include newly-elected Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and “Heidi” Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Four republicans have voted down the measure, either because of their DACA concerns or military funding. Those senators include Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

Despite the apparent lack of a deal to avoid a shutdown, the mood was slightly more optimistic on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue earlier on Friday evening with negotiators hopeful that a deal would come together — if not by midnight — then sometime this weekend before nearly a million federal workers head back to work on Monday.

Missing Friday’s midnight deadline would trigger a short technical shutdown, but not one with significant immediate impact since most federal offices are closed over the weekend.

“I think there’s a deal in the next 24 hours,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget director, said on CNN earlier in the evening.

“There’s a really good chance it gets fixed” before government offices open on Monday, he later told reporters in an impromptu off camera gaggle at the White House.

President Trump, who cancelled a planned trip to Florida on Friday, engaged with lawmakers by phone and on Twitter.

When asked if Trump might go to Florida tomorrow, Mulvaney said “He’s not leaving until this is finished.”

“If the Senate changes anything it’s going to have to back to the House. Now in theory, the Senate could deal with it before midnight and the House could in some fashion deal with it before midnight. It’s more likely that if the Senate makes any changes it would take the House a while to get everybody back for the vote,” Mulvaney said of timing.

The shutdown showdown also takes place on the eve of the one year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration and could mark the first time government shut down under unified GOP control of government.

Earlier in the day, Mulvaney sent a memo to the heads of federal departments and agencies with guidance to review their contingency plans and be prepared to furlough non-essential employees.

“This guidance reminds agencies of their responsibilities to plan for agency operations under such a contingency. At this time, agencies should be reviewing their plans for operations in the absence of appropriations,” Mulvaney said in the memo.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

Source: abcnews.go.com

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