Government shutdown negotiations are starting to careen off the rails

Congressional negotiations on legislation to avoid a government shutdown have hit stumbling blocks in recent days.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus has grown frustrated with GOP leadership's plan for the negotiations.

Congress is facing a December 8 deadline to avoid a shutdown.

Congressional negotiations on averting a partial shutdown of the federal government are starting to look a lot more difficult.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is threatening to hold up a short-term extension of the federal government's funding, with the deadline for a shutdown looming on December 8.

GOP leadership in both the House and Senate want to pass a bill that would push that deadline until December 22 to provide more time for negotiations with Democrats, but the Freedom Caucus wants to move the deadline to December 30.

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High-profile Congressional Republicans
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Senator Lindsey Graham
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AL)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

"There's a whole lot more pressure to get home for Christmas than there is for New Year's," said Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the Freedom Caucus, on Monday.

In the Freedom Caucus's thinking, that Christmas pressure is more likely to get Republicans to sign on to a worse deal.

The hardline conservative group is also setting out a list of demands for the shutdown negotiations that could complicate the process for leaders.

The group said it would not vote for any spending bill that includes a codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields undocumented people who came to the US as minors from deportation.

"We DACA on spending, I think we've been very clear, there is no scenario where DACA should be attached to spending," Meadows said during a town hall meeting with Freedom Caucus members last week.

The GOP leadership also appears to be on board with playing hardball on DACA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it would be "ridiculous" to have a shutdown over DACA and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said there is "no way" DACA would be in a funding bill.

Democrats, on the other hand, have said they would not accept a bill without it.

The demands led the Freedom Caucus to hold up a vote on moving the GOP's massive tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), to a conference committee on Monday for more than an hour.

Democrats are seizing on the uncertainty to try and create leverage in the negotiations and highlight what they are painting as chaos among the opposition.

'The Freedom Caucus held up an unrelated vote on the tax bill, because they were unsatisfied with the Republican leadership's plan to keep the government open," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a floor speech on Tuesday. "If we're going to solve all the problems that confront us before the end of the year, House leaders cannot let the Freedom Caucus – a small band of hard-right, reactionary, conservatives – run the show."

As of now, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the exact date for the new deadline that will be in the short-term extension bill has not been determined.

Congressional leaders including McConnell, Ryan, Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will head to the White House on Thursday to meet with President Donald Trump and continue negotiations on a funding bill.

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