WASHINGTON – Efforts to reach a deal that would keep the government running and address sticky immigration and spending issues derailed on Tuesday, after Democratic leaders pulled out of a planned White House meeting in response to jabs by President Donald Trump on Twitter.
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Current funding for the government expires at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 9, giving lawmakers little more than a week to pass short-term legislation keeping it fully operational. Although Congress could still pass a short-term measure, which usually isn't controversial, Tuesday's public dispute indicated that that subsequent negotiations for an expected longer-term package at year's end face partisan headwinds.
The skirmish began Tuesday morning when Mr. Trump tweeted that he planned to take a tough line on any discussions over immigration that come up in negotiations on keeping the government funded beyond next week.
"Meeting with 'Chuck and Nancy' today about keeping government open and working," Mr. Trump tweeted, referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). Mr. Trump continued by saying they want "illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked." He added, "I don't see a deal!"
Mr. Trump's tweet angered the Democratic leaders, who said they saw no point in visiting the White House for what they deemed fruitless talks.
"It would be a waste of everyone's time to continue working with someone who clearly has no interest in coming to an agreement," Mr. Schumer told reporters.
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The Democratic leaders sought to meet instead with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), but they kept their appointment with Mr Trump.
Should the impasse continue over spending and force a government shutdown next month, Mr. Trump said he "would absolutely blame the Democrats."
On Tuesday evening the president said on Twitter: "I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can't now threaten a shutdown to get their demands."
Democrats said voters would hold Republicans responsible, given that they control the White House and both chambers of Congress. "The American people know they're running the show," Mr. Schumer said.
If the government does shut down, many federal employees would be furloughed, but those deemed essential to protecting life or property would still be required to show up to work.
The public blowup between Mr. Trump and the Democrats marks a sharp contrast with an earlier meeting back in September. In that gathering, Mr. Trump shocked GOP leaders by overriding their objections and striking a deal with Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer to keep the government funded until early December, raising the federal government's borrowing limit and passing relief aid for victims of severe storms.
There are other, more volatile issues in play this time. Democrats and some Republicans have indicated they hope to include protections in the year-end spending bill for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents. Mr. Trump in September ended a program protecting many of these immigrants, known as Dreamers, but he gave Congress until March to come up with legislation handling the Dreamers' fate.
Some Democrats have said they wouldn't vote for a spending bill that doesn't include protections for Dreamers, though leaders have generally been vague about whether they would move to shutter the government if the spending bill doesn't address their concerns.
Many Republicans also want to pass legislation protecting the Dreamers from deportation, but they are likely to want border security and immigration-enforcement measures to go along with it. Democrats have said they are open to some enforcement measures, but would oppose construction of a physical wall along the length of the border with Mexico.
GOP leaders have said they want to address immigration in a separate bill, but Democrats have leverage in the year-end talks. The spending bill would require 60 votes in the Senate to advance, meaning Republicans, who control 52 seats, need Democrats to come on board. In the House, many Republicans often balk at supporting spending bills, so GOP leaders typically need Democratic votes to reach a majority.
Congressional leaders also need to reach an agreement on overall spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2018. Once Congress has agreed to an overall funding level, lawmakers can then turn to writing the detailed spending legislation that divvies that money up for the rest of fiscal year 2018, which ends next Sept. 30.
Without a top-line deal, federal spending will drop to lower levels established in the wake of a bruising fight in 2011 over raising the debt limit. Congressional leaders and White House officials have been discussing a two-year budget deal that would raise spending by about $200 billion over two years.
Republicans want to raise military spending but have balked at boosting nondefense spending by an equivalent amount. Democrats are pushing for comparable increases on both sides.
Write to Kristina Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org and Peter Nicholas at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 28, 2017 22:07 ET (03:07 GMT)