The fight over the next government shutdown — just 15 days away — already looks like a disaster

  • The deal to reopen the federal government, passed Monday, will fund the government through February 8.
  • Part of the deal in the Senate to break the shutdown was a commitment from Republicans to try to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program into law.
  • Just a day after Congress struck the deal, negotiations over DACA are not looking promising.


Congress voted to reopen the government on Monday, ending the partial shutdown of federal services after just 69 hours. But in doing so, lawmakers set up another shutdown deadline just more than two weeks away — February 8.

That gives the two parties just 15 more days to resolve the longstanding differences over immigration, defense funding, and social programs that helped prompt the shutdown last weekend. And avoiding a second shutdown already looks grim.

"A sequel seems likely given absolutely no policy resolution," said Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group.

DACA is the central fight

The main policy issue that could push Washington to the brink of a second shutdown is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields from deportation about 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minors.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer came to an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as part of the deal to end a shutdown, in which McConnell promised to hold a vote to codify the program into law. President Donald Trump in September announced plans to end the program, but he gave Congress until March 5 to work out a permanent solution for the program.

The key sticking point in the February shutdown negotiations won't be formulating a bill that is acceptable to most senators. Rather, it will come in finding a deal that both the House of Representatives and White House support.

The White House has already poured cold water on a bipartisan bill from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Dick Durbin.

"The Graham-Durbin proposal is not a proposal the president can sign," White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said.

19 PHOTOS
Faces of those impacted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
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Faces of those impacted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Paulina, 26, a DACA recipient, is comforted after watching U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. Paulina, a graduate of UCLA, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She said the decision was really upsetting but she was going to continue to work to push members of Congress to enact a law to protect their rights. "We are not going to give up", she said. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Young DACA recipients, Mario, Melanie and Luis, watch U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, CHIRLA spokesman and Communications Director (R), along with staff and young DACA recipients watches U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A family fills out an application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), at a workshop on February 18, 2015 in New York City. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York holds weekly workshops to help immigrants get legal status under DACA to work in the United States. An expansion of the national program, scheduled for this week, was frozen by a ruling from a Texas federal judge. The Obama Administration plans to appeal the ruling and, if sussessful, DACA would allow legalization of up to two million immigrants who entered the United States before they were age 16. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Mitzi Pena, 19, (R) her sister Yaretzi Pena, 5, and her cousin Karina Terriquez, 20, (L) wait in line to receive assitance in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Edgar Lopez shows his Employment Authorization Card, at home in Davenport, Florida, February 1, 2013. Edgar and his brother Javier are among the 1.7 million estimated illegal immigrants younger than 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children and are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Oscar Barrera Gonzalez along with a group of immigrants, known as DREAMers, hold flowers as they listen to a news conference to kick off a new program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Roberto Larios, 21, (R) holds Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival application as he waits in line with hundreds of fellow undocumanted immigrants at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Brenda Robles, 20, (R) holds her high school diploma as she waits in line with her friends at at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Hundreds of people line up around the block from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Undocumented UCLA students Alejandra Gutierrez (L) and Miriam Gonzales attend a workshop for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work. The changes went into effect on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Alan Valdivia receives assistance in filling out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
People fill out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June.REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Students wait in line for assistance with paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Undocumented UCLA students prepare paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work. The changes went into effect on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Paulina, 26, a DACA recipient during U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. Paulina, a graduate of UCLA, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She said the decision was really upsetting but she was going to continue to work to push members of Congress to enact a law to protect their rights. "We are not going to give up", she said. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
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Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the position Tuesday, saying the Graham-Durbin bill "should be declared dead on arrival."

Trump also addressed the coming fight over DACA in a statement applauding the end of the government shutdown.

"As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration," Trump said. "We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country."

House Republicans have already declared themselves not privy to any deal between Schumer and McConnell.

"There were no commitments made in the House," Rep. Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, House leadership has agreed to support a staunchly conservative immigration bill in a play to secure the votes of the House Freedom Caucus for the previous funding bill. That legislation would be dead on arrival in the Senate, and shows the massive gap between the two chambers.

"We believe that you need to start in the House and it has been my position consistently, you start in the House with the most conservative bill, you send it to the Senate, it gets moderated in the Senate, and then comes back," Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows told reporters last weekend. "And perhaps a bill that I vote on to start the process in the House is not one I vote for in final passage, but it's the way that it's supposed to work."

It's not only Republicans rejecting ideas to solve the impasse on DACA. Schumer said his offer to Trump to partially fund the president's long-promised wall on the Mexican border, made during a negotiation on Friday, was no longer valid.

But that's not all

DACA represents the central issue of the next shutdown fight, but it won't the only policy problem Congress must resolve ahead of February 8.

Also high on the list is funding for the fiscal year 2018. The bill passed Monday was a short-term funding vehicle known as a continuing resolution (CR), and is the fourth such stopgap measure Congress has used to fund the government since September.

The use of CRs, which provide little long-term certainty for federal agencies, has been widely criticized by members of both parties. Before the next deadline, congressional leaders must come to an agreement on funding levels for defense and non-defense programs over the next year and a half.

Reaching an agreement is harder than it sounds. Republicans want to bump military spending by twice as much as non-defense spending, while Democrats want those two sides to rise in equal measure.

Given the ramifications, the funding issue could become nearly as contentious as the DACA fight.

Lawmakers must also come to agreements on additional funds for disaster relief, extensions of certain Medicare provisions, funds for programs to combat the opioid crisis, policies to stabilize the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, and more.

While none of these issues are as politically divisive as DACA, they carry the potential to complicate any negotiations over the next two-plus weeks.

Said Krueger: "So call it the deal to maybe do a Senate deal later, but no agreements from the House or White House...it is literally a deal that hinges on a non-binding promise for the Senate to begin talking about immigration later this month on the floor."

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SEE ALSO: Congress just set up another government shutdown deadline — and the next fight could get even nastier

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