The bigger drama for much of the day was whether a collection of defense hawks, along with conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, would band together to sink the bill on the Republican side. Complicating the leadership’s effort was Trump himself, who tweeted in the morning his opposition to including a long-term extension of CHIP in a short-term spending bill. The White House was later forced to clarify that the president supported passage of the bill to avert a shutdown.
Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the Freedom Caucus chairman, told reporters that Speaker Paul Ryan and his team lacked the votes to pass the bill and that his group was demanding concessions from the leadership. But GOP leaders said otherwise. “We’ll have the Republican votes to pass it,” Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina told reporters midway through the afternoon. He said the party whip, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had been calling GOP lawmakers from the hospital, where he is recovering from another surgery after being shot and seriously wounded at a congressional baseball practice last year. When a member gets a call from a hospital bed, McHenry said, “it kinda works.”
Yet all of the whipping by the House leadership had little effect on the Senate. During a tense floor debate late Thursday evening, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer pushed for an immediate vote on the House bill. “We all know it will be defeated,” he said. Democrats said they had secured enough support among their 49 members to block the bill from receiving the necessary 60 votes to defeat a filibuster. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold the key vote until Friday, apparently hoping that a night’s sleep and the impending deadline would cause enough Democrats—and a few of his own resisting members—to relent.
Under pressure from liberals and immigrant activists, Democratic senators said they were prepared to take a stand against Trump’s opposition to a bipartisan deal to extend DACA and provide a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children. “We will support a short-term CR for a few days to keep the government open while we stay in town and conclude our negotiations. But we do not support perpetuating the current budgetary dysfunction that is hurting our country and our Commonwealth,” Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a joint statement.
Democrats used Trump’s words to defend their position, pointing to his tweet last May saying the country needed “a good ‘shutdown’” and his more recent comments suggesting a shutdown was all but inevitable. Republicans, meanwhile, said the Democratic position was “unconscionable” and held paychecks for military-service members hostage to an immigration deal. “There’s no excuse for them to vote to shut the government down,” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told reporters. “So I think the American people will see that and be disgusted with all of Washington, and especially those who voted to shut it down.”