With Hours Left, Congress Still Trying To Reach An Agreement To Fund The Government
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
There are just hours left until a partial shutdown of the federal government. The House passed a bill last night to keep the government funded for four weeks, but Senate Democrats who are looking for protections for young immigrants say they will block it without a further deal, and that could mean a shutdown starts at midnight Eastern Time. This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met President Trump at the White House. But when he got back to the Capitol, there was still no deal.
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CHUCK SCHUMER: We had a long and detailed meeting. We made some progress. But we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.
MCEVERS: To talk about this, we are joined by NPR's Kelsey Snell, who is on Capitol Hill. Hey, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
MCEVERS: So what can you tell us about this Trump-Schumer meeting? Does it look like they got any closer to an agreement?
SNELL: Schumer really did not reveal much about the meeting beyond what we just heard him say about making progress. And there are still talks going on of an even shorter spending bill. So people have talked about one day, maybe three days, maybe four days, anything to keep them from shutting down the government while talks continue.
And the Democrats I talked to say they really don't want a shutdown. Some say they're worried that shutting down the government would just come off really terribly in places like North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri where Democrats are fighting very hard to hold onto Senate seats. And so they are trying to come up with some way that they can appear very strong on this immigration issue without actually having to get to the point of a shutdown.
MCEVERS: Seems like a pretty fine line there.
SNELL: (Laughter) Yeah.
MCEVERS: Are Republicans open to this idea of a short spending bill?
SNELL: The majority of them are refusing to say, and that's in part because this is a negotiating tactic. It wouldn't be very helpful for them if they wanted to get this longer-term spending bill to just throw up their hands and say, sure, we'll do it for a shorter amount of time. But you know, there are still options out there, and they - you know, they don't want a shutdown. Nobody wants a shutdown.
MCEVERS: Those of us who are not in Washington - I wonder if you could just sort of describe what it's been like on Capitol Hill today.
SNELL: It has been meetings upon meetings upon meetings.
SNELL: So the deputies to the leaders in the House and the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, met today trying to reach an agreement on immigration. So far we haven't heard anything that indicates that they've made any progress. We know that Senator Schumer went to the White House on the invitation of President Trump.
Ryan and McConnell met. Schumer and Pelosi met. And they've just been kind of huddling in their own corners. And honestly, mostly they're blaming each other. It's been a competition over branding here, and the House blames the Senate. Republicans problem the Democrats. And here's how McConnell put it this morning on the Senate floor.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: I wish for all of our sakes that the Democratic leader would figure out what he actually wants. I feel bad for his own members. He's painted them into a corner.
SNELL: He also blamed Trump just two days ago. And this is something that Republicans have been saying. This is what he said at his weekly press conference just two days ago.
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MCCONNELL: What I want to see is an outcome, and an outcome involves the signature of the president of the United States.
SNELL: And Democrats would agree with him there. They say that this is all because the president is not trustworthy, and they don't know what kind of deal they could strike with other people here in the Capitol that the president will accept. And they point to that meeting - that profanity-laden meeting last week where...
SNELL: ...He shot down an agreement as evidence that the president won't exactly sign anything like he said he would.
MCEVERS: Right. So what next? I mean, is this shutdown threat more serious than it was this morning?
SNELL: It certainly is. We are roughly eight hours away from a shutdown, and that is very, very close. And the Senate will have to vote at some point. They have this short-term spending bill available that they could be voting on, but they haven't done it yet.
The other thing that we should keep an eye on, though, is that the House reversed course and decided to tell their members to stay in town. That gives them an option that if a short-term is what they need to do, they could have a vote, and they could theoretically bring everybody back and vote at the very last minute.
MCEVERS: Something I'm sure we will continue to talk about.
MCEVERS: NPR's Kelsey Snell on Capitol Hill, thanks a lot.
SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.