White House: 'We Don't Want A Shutdown'
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here we go into the final 12 hours before a government shutdown. And the House of Representatives is leaving town. House leaders already passed a four-week extension of government funding but have no indication that the Senate will pass the same thing or anything. Republicans control Congress and the presidency but are moving to blame Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer for any shutdown. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney spoke moments ago.
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MICK MULVANEY: We don't want this. We do not want a shutdown. But if Mr. Schumer insists on it, he is in a position to force this on the American people.
INSKEEP: Kelsey Snell is congressional reporter for NPR News. She's at the Capitol. Hi there, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
INSKEEP: OK. So talk us through this. What exactly have House members been told?
SNELL: House members have been told that they can leave shortly here. They are finishing up their last vote series of the week. And they're scheduled next week to be in a district work period. So they're scheduled to be back in their home states, doing work. And that means they would be - theoretically be getting on planes very shortly and leaving. If that happens, though, it's important to remember that leaders could call them back if they needed to. And we're advised that there could be additional procedural votes sometime in the next couple of days, in the next couple of hours. Things are supposed to remain flexible.
INSKEEP: Oh. So it's not like they're just leaving - everybody's heading for the airport now. There's a few hours yet.
SNELL: Well, some people, I am told, are heading to the airport immediately. So there - things are - people are scattering to the wind, and they're hoping that the Senate will get this figured out before the next 12 hours run out.
INSKEEP: OK. Wow. Talk about a hardball tactic. This is what House Republican leaders - because it's Republicans who control the House, of course - have done. What options are left to the U.S. Senate then?
SNELL: The Senate could decide that they have enough votes to pass what passed the House yesterday, and that would be a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open at current spending levels until Feb. 16. That includes the six-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program. The thing is that most everybody agrees of this - on the substance of what is in that bill. The problem is the politics surrounding it. And Democrats say that they don't really trust Republicans and particularly President Trump to actually get a deal on the broader picture of spending and immigration.
INSKEEP: Oh, because this is just for a few weeks. And it does not include any relief for people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
SNELL: Right. They caved on this issue in December. And I think they feel like - and, actually, in my conversations with Democrats, they tell me they feel like they can't just keep letting the White House get month-long extensions because there's no guarantee that they will ever get a deal. So what they're calling for instead are very, very, very short extensions of spending - maybe one day, two day, three days. It actually started as a Republican idea, and Democrats have seized on it. But Republican leaders are not at all friendly to the idea of very short-term spending bills.
INSKEEP: Just to remember, didn't large numbers of Republicans, as well as Democrats, say they wanted to fix DACA?
SNELL: Yes, absolutely. And that was up until last week. The conversation and the message was that Republicans and Democrats agree that there needs to be a DACA solution. And the White House agreed with that. But things fell apart during that profanity-laced meeting last week in the White House. And now Republicans are saying there is no immediate deadline, and they have time to work this out. And they're saying they have until March.
INSKEEP: OK. And they have until midnight to come up with some kind of agreement, however short term. Kelsey, thanks very much.
SNELL: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.