Democrats also believe that the optics of another government shutdown—granted, a partial one—will favor them, giving them little reason to capitulate on the issue. Recent polling indicates that they're right.
Cuellar also pointed to polling after the 2013 government shutdown showing that voters were more inclined to pin the funding lapse on the GOP. "History would tell us that Republicans would get more blame," he said. "It's a replay of the same movie."
But even more importantly, Democrats believe that the benefits of the party's messaging on the issue—that they want a clean funding bill to prevent a shutdown—far outweigh the potential pitfalls of standing with Obama on his executive action.
"I think there were a lot of different ways to put Democrats on the spot ... on immigration and on the president's immigration policies, and this particular way of doing it is sort of the worst possible messaging," one Senate Democratic aide said. "We're seeing threats from ISIS every day. And I think tying the two together—I think that was a poor choice."
Admittedly, Democratic unity is easier because their numbers have shrunk—and many of their most common defectors lost their reelection bids. "You've still got Blue Dogs, but I'd venture to say they're not as conservative as the ones that are not with us anymore," Cuellar said.
Cuellar added that many remaining members have taken a lesson from those election results, when vulnerable Democrats who voted with Republicans lost their seats anyway. "Some of the real conservative Blue Dogs that voted with Republicans many times—it didn't matter because Republicans still went after them," Cuellar said. "They didn't get a pass "¦ Even if I vote no, the Republicans are still going to come against me and the Hispanic community might be against me. "¦ Don't let me piss my base off."
Republicans believe that Monday's decision by a Texas judge that stalled the president's executive action will form cracks within the Democratic Conference. But the ruling showed no signs this week of having any effect on Democratic resolve. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Angus King, Joe Manchin, and Claire McCaskill, who have all voiced concerns about the president's action, said Tuesday they would continue to stick with their leadership and oppose any DHS funding bill that is not completely clean.
The judge's decision, one Senate Democratic leadership aide said, could easily be overturned, giving members little reason to factor it into their votes. "What happened [Monday] is several layers removed away from the central question of was the president's executive order lawful," the aide said. "And it was from a judge who has a very well-known and conservative record on immigration. So in that sense, it's not a significant development in terms of the legal case."