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08 December 2017, 01:02 | Terri Saunders
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Joshua Roberts Reuters
Democrats have a rare chance to win major concessions in a US Congress they do not control by taking advantage of a battle within the Republican Party over keeping the government open.
Without legislation, many agencies would run out of money after midnight Friday and grind to a close. For Trump, the complex, and very public, battle over the shutdown will also be a demonstration of his ability to deliver on a central 2016 campaign promise of adding billions of dollars to the USA military budget. But many also want to limit government spending. Democrats' top two demands include passage of legislation that has eluded them for 16 years: protecting from deportation almost 700,000 young people known as "Dreamers", whose parents brought them illegally to the United States as children.
The Democratic surrender was exposed in the Democratic leaders' explanation for why they want their members to vote against the GOP short-term budget extension, dubbed the "CR" for "Continuing Resolution".
The top Democratic lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, boycotted White House spending talks a week ago after Trump, a Republican, said he did not see a deal in the offing.
The drama over whether the House will pass legislation preventing a weekend partial government shutdown is essentially over.
"This bill kicks the can down the road for two weeks just so Republicans can continue focusing on the greatest tax scam in history", said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California. Democrats have a history of strongly supporting stopgap funding bills, providing the cushion for victory in the Republican House. Without support from many of them, Republicans would need votes from Democrats to push the temporary spending measure through the House, and Democrats have not said what they will do.
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There is another wild card for both parties in Thursday's meeting: Trump. It's just not going to happen, ' the GOP leader said.
Perhaps the strangest reason to believe that a shutdown could be imminent is that Trump seems to think that a shutdown would be good for him politically, and that the blame would fall on Democrats.
Republican lawmakers are asking for an extension, and filed a two-week stopgap measure to buy more time for negotiations, but the new Dec 22 deadline won't be approved without a vote in Congress this week.
The Oval Office sit-down will come after Pelosi of California and Schumer of NY pulled out of a planned meeting on November 28 after Trump tweeted, "I don't see a deal!"
House conservatives had raised objections to the current plan to extend funding until December 22 before reaching a longer-term deal because they worry the pressure to leave town right before Christmas will give Democrats leverage to get more of their priorities included in a spending bill at that time. Some Republicans want a large boost in the defense cap, and Democrats are demanding an equal increase in non-defense spending.
On Tuesday, Schumer noted there were "good negotiations" under way on the immigration measure.
While the bill keeps the government running for now, it would set up a pre-Christmas showdown later this month. A second step would be another short-term funding bill, followed by one to fund the government through the fiscal year ending September 30.
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