The next government shutdown deadline is 3 days away — and it doesn't look promising

  • The government will shut down after February 8 if no new funding deal is reached.
  • Disagreements in Congress remain on funding and immigration and could lead to another shutdown.
  • The federal government was shut down for three days in January.


The federal government's first partial shutdown of the year came to a close just 14 days ago. Already, another shutdown is bearing down on Congress.

Because of the short-term nature of the funding agreement that ended the shutdown, lawmakers have only until the end of the day on February 8 to pass another bill to keep the government open. If the government enters into another shutdown, it would also be the shortest time between government shutterings since 1984.

While congressional leaders are attempting to find legislative solutions for a slew of politically thorny issues, it appears that the two parties remain a good distance away from settling their differences and another shutdown is a real possibility.

Immigration remains the crux of the fight

The biggest obstacle to a long-term funding solution, or even a short-term punt, is immigration reform.

Senate Democrats shut down the government in January primarily over the lack of a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Donald Trump gave Congress until March 5 to codify the Obama-era program that protects from deportation close to 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the country as minors.

RELATED: A look back at Trump's bipartisan meeting on immigration reform

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Trump holds bipartisan meeting on immigration reform
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), flanked by Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), rubs his eyes and listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US Senator Dianne Feinstein (C), D-California, speaks to US President Donald Trump during a meeting with bipartisan members of the Senate on immigration at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ), flanked by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks as President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaks during a meeting about immigration with U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. In addition to seeking bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, Trump advocated for the reintroduction of earmarks as a way to break the legislative stalemate in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, listens while U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, right, speaks during a meeting with bipartisan members of Congress on immigration in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Trump�indicated he's willing to split contentious immigration proposals into two stages, providing protections for young immigrants known as dreamers and increasing border security first, leaving tougher negotiations on comprehensive legislation for later. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens as President Donald Trump conducts a meeting on immigration in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. In addition to seeking bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, Trump advocated for the reintroduction of earmarks as a way to break the legislative stalemate in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: Republican and Democrat members of Congress, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and others join President Donald Trump for a meeting on immigration in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. In addition to seeking bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, Trump advocated for the reintroduction of earmarks as a way to break the legislative stalemate in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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As part of the deal to reopen the government, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would negotiate in good faith on a deal to resolve the DACA issue. He said that if there was no deal by February 8, the Senate would begin the process of debate on a bill.

But in the week and a half since the deal, there has been little outward sign of progress on an immigration plan.

A bipartisan group of senators met over the past week to try and come to a consensus, but there is growing pessimism of a deal, and the bulk of each party remains divided on the approach.

Within the Republican Party, many House conservatives want to push for broader changes to the immigration system, while moderates want to stay focused on DACA. Those House conservatives are still pushing hard for a vote on a bill that would die almost immediately in the Senate.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-highest ranking House Republican, and Sen. John Thune, the third-highest ranking Senate Republican, were standing right beside each other at a press conference Thursday when they directly contradicted the other about the goals of an immigration plan. 

Rodgers told reporters that the House GOP wants to advance a bill that addresses immigration broadly, including adjustments to legal immigration programs. Immediately after, Thune said a narrower focus was ideal.

"If we can solve DACA and border security, that may be the best we can hope for," Thune said.

The White House has also complicated the issue with its own plan it released on January 25. Trump's framework would provide an avenue to citizenship for current DACA recipients and another 1 million immigrants who could qualify for the program, but it would also makes changes to some legal immigration programs that Democrats consider poison-pill measures.

During a speech at the Republican congressional conference's annual retreat Thursday, Trump pushed for the Senate to bring to the floor bill based on the framework.

"The Republican position on immigration is the center, mainstream view of the American people, with some extra strength at the border and security at the border added in," Trump said. "What we're asking for and what the American people are pleading for is sanity and common sense in our immigration system."

Spending, debt ceiling, and lots of other problems

Other issues aside from immigration loom in the background of the funding fight.

Perhaps the most pressing is the long-term funding for the government. Both parties want to increase spending for defense and non-defense programs for fiscal year 2018 beyond caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Act, but leaders must agree on how high that funding can go.

RELATED: High-profile Congressional Republicans

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High-profile Congressional Republicans
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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)
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Republicans want to increase defense funding by almost twice as much as non-defense spending, while Democrats want the caps on the two sides increased in equal amounts.

Given the disagreement, Republicans are already talking about using another continuing resolution (CR) — the short-term funding bill that has been used to kick the can on a larger funding deal since September — to keep the government open until March 23.

Whether even that shorter bill can pass is questionable, however. Democrats want to ensure that any DACA solution is passed before the soft deadline on March 5. Many Republicans, who dislike CRs in general, may not sign on either.

"I don’t see the possibility of the House Freedom Caucus supporting a fifth CR without substantial changes," Rep. Mark Meadows, the chair of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters on Thursday.

Importantly, another punt on funding would likely put the next shutdown deadline close to the date when the federal government will hit the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling has been a politically divisive issue, but stepping over the limit would throw the global financial system into chaos.

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