The Republican plan to avoid a government shutdown is on the verge of failure

  • GOP leadership on Tuesday introduced a short-term funding bill to extend the deadline for a deal to prevent a government shutdown to February 16.
  • But the bill, facing blowback from Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate, does not appear to have enough votes to pass.
  • The deadline to pass a bill to fund the government and avoid a shutdown is the end of Friday.

The Republican bill to fund the government in the short term and avoid a shutdown on Friday is quickly unravelling less than two days before the deadline.

Republicans in both the House and the Senate are criticising the leadership’s plan to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government open until February 16. The CR also includes a six-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is holding out for changes to the CR, including to immigration and the length of military funding (its members want it extended beyond February).

So far, the leadership has not given in to these demands, and the Freedom Caucus’ roughly 30 members’ withholding their votes puts the legislation’s chance of passing in the House in danger.

A source close to the Freedom Caucus told Business Insider that “there are still not enough votes for Republicans to get to 218 in the House,” the number needed to pass the bill.

The bill’s dire situation in the Senate

Senate Republicans need at least 10 Democrats to vote for the continuing resolution to avoid a filibuster since Sen. John McCain has still not returned from Arizona, where he was receiving treatment for a brain tumour.

Already, three GOP senators have said they will vote against the bill. Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina pointed to concerns over the CR’s lack of certainty about military funding, while Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky confirmed to Business Insider that he would vote against the legislation as constructed.

And Politico’s Seung Min Kim reported that a spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee seemed to leave the door open for a “no” vote, saying, “Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, but Sen. Lee has never voted for a CR.”

When asked about Lee’s vote, the spokesman, Conn Carroll, told Business Insider, “The quote speaks for itself.”

Even Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-highest-ranking Republican senator, said the current plan was in danger.

“I’m concerned that we, yeah, we may not have 60 votes in the Senate,” Thune told Politico on Thursday.

Democrats are also confident that they have enough votes to block the CR. One senior Democratic aide told Business Insider, “the votes aren’t there to pass it in the Senate.”

The White House, meanwhile, released a statement Thursday saying President Donald Trump supported the House’s CR.

“Congress needs to do its job and provide full funding of our troops and military with a two-year budget caps deal,” Raj Shah, a deputy White House press secretary, said in the statement. “However, as the deal is negotiated, the president wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats.”

A possible Plan B

A possible lifeline to avoid a shutdown could come in the form of an even-shorter-term continuing resolution to give the leadership from both parties more time to work out a robust deal on funding,CHIP, and immigration.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said a CR to fund the government for just a few days could give negotiators enough time to settle the disagreements and come up with a bigger package.

“I don’t know whether we’re close to an agreement or far from agreement, but either way this makes sense to keep the government funded and require us to continue negotiations until we reach a conclusion,” Moran told Business Insider.

Moran, a Republican, also expressed the need for a clear path forward amid Trump’s sending mixed signals on a variety of topics, including immigration and CHIP.

“Presidential leadership is important in resolving all [issues], but especially big ones – this is a big issue,” Moran said. “And clear direction from the White House has value.”

During an interview on CNN, Rounds agreed with Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, that a shorter-term CR to give negotiators a few days come to a broader funding agreement would be acceptable.

“If they came to us and said, ‘OK, we’ve got a deal, here are the terms, we need five days in order to do the paperwork,’ I think both of us would go along with that,” King said.

Other Republicans have indicated they are game for either option as long as the government does not shut down.

If funding were to lapse, it would be the first shutdown with a disruption to government employees while one party controlled both Congress and the White House.

“I’m open to anything that actually gets us consensus on the CHIP program and a number of the other things that we’re doing,” Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina told Business Insider. “But I am absolutely not going to be a party to shutting down the government. It doesn’t make sense. There’s a lot of people at stake.”

The deadline to pass a funding bill is midnight as Friday turns to Saturday.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.