White House looks to pick off Democrats to shake up shutdown stalemate, even as party remains united

Gridlocked about how to end the longest shutdown in US history, the White House is reaching out to rank-and-...

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 1:47 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 1:47 PM

Gridlocked about how to end the longest shutdown in US history, the White House is reaching out to rank-and-file moderate Democrats to try and peel off support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has met to try and jumpstart even a semblance of talks on re-opening the government.

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Both of these efforts are, according to aides in both parties, ultimately going to be unsuccessful.

More importantly, they underscore that the respective leaders -- the key players in this now-25-day drama of nothingness -- are still not talking, and currently have no plans to do so.

Bottom line

There's nothing that happened Monday -- despite the incorporation of a new bipartisan Senate "gang," and the White House push to peel off House Democrats -- to move this closer to resolution. If anything, it was a demonstration of just how far apart things remain -- and likely will for weeks to come, aides involved say.

Just saying

It's 25 days in. Hundreds of thousands missed their paychecks last week. Active duty members of the US Coast Guard -- 40,000-plus of them -- miss their first paychecks Tuesday. Growing wait lines due to Transportation Security Administration absences are plaguing major airports. Congress has ground to a virtual halt.

This is the pain that's supposed to jar lawmakers back to the table to make a deal. And it's not happening. At least not yet.

What to watch

  • President Donald Trump has lunch with members of Congress at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  • Senate Leadership news conferences at 2 p.m. ET.

The new White House push

Trump and his team are deploying an age-old legislative strategy -- go after the most vulnerable members of the opposite party and try and pick them off. In this case, invitations were sent last night to a group of moderate House Democrats hailing from districts Trump won in 2016. This is the next play -- following last week's public messaging blitz -- to try and shake loose congressional Democrats who, to this point, have shown very little day light between one another.

The reality

None of these members have publicly broken with Democratic leadership and Democratic aides haven't picked up any sense behind the scenes that it could happen. Are members frustrated? Yes. Especially the new freshman class. But in the binary choice of side with the President or side with the party, the latter is still the prevailing choice, aides say. We'll see if that starts to shift as this drags on.

The new "gang"

More than 12 senators from both parties met in the Capitol basement hideaway office of West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin -- all frustrated with the current state of play, all serious about finding a way out.

It didn't go well, according to multiple attendees.

So the new Senate "gang" is off to an inauspicious start, though lawmakers did agree to keep talking, senators said.

This is a key point to remember: Senate "gangs" don't have a great record of success -- but they get people talking and exchanging ideas, something that basically hasn't happened in weeks. Low bar? Yes. But as one person in the meeting put it: "People are talking, and that's better than the alternative."

More on senators not quite acclimating to gang life here thanks to CNN's intrepid Jeremy Herb and Caroline Kelly.

The biggest hurdles

The biggest hurdle is this diametrically opposed position: Democrats insist the government must be re-opened immediately for border security negotiations to really kick into gear. The President has rejected proposals that would do just that, both from Democrats and Republicans. That, obviously, would appear to be a significant hurdle.

The other, at least in the minds of Democratic senators to whom I've spoken, is they simply have no sense where the President stands on any given day -- something their Republican colleagues don't disagree with.

"It's short-term deal, it's long-term deal, it's $5 billion, it's $2 billion, it's $1.6 billion, it's DACA, it's no DACA," one Democratic senator told me Monday night, ticking through the somewhat head-spinning positions the White House and President have floated in the last three weeks. "It's just tough to keep up, let alone try to find negotiating space."

What's next for House Democrats

House Democrats have relentlessly passed bills to re-open all or parts of the shuttered federal agencies since they took control of the chamber, and that will continue this week.

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey announced Monday the House would vote on two new short-term funding bills, one to February 1, another to February 28. The idea is to basically throw every possible option -- from full-year funding to individual funding bills to stopgap bills with varying end dates -- over to the Senate to try and force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's hand.

The GOP response in a nutshell

Asked if the new Democratic stop-gap bills would in any way tempt Senate Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas responded without hesitation: "No."

Reminder

McConnell's position remains unchanged: he will not bring anything to the Senate floor without the support of Trump, who has made explicitly clear he will not support re-opening the government before a deal on border wall funding is completed.

The Senate pulse

We've noted this a few times, but it's worth doing it again: McConnell isn't feeling pressured to buckle on the above point by his conference, according to several senators and senior aides. Yes, it's true senators are frustrated and most, in candid moments, would acknowledge being completely flummoxed by what the President would accept for a final deal. But they are largely behind McConnell -- and that shows no sign of changing any time soon.

It's worth noting with McConnell that he will be involved in this process when it comes to an end -- but has said repeatedly he views Democrats and Trump getting past their current brinksmanship as the central next step before he enters the fray.

Goes without saying

This position infuriates Democrats, who have said repeatedly, in just about every venue and platform possible, that McConnell should force the President's hand and bring the House proposals to the floor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has repeatedly gone after McConnell for what he says is abdicating his responsibility as majority leader, and Democratic senators who have met in the "gangs" have repeatedly urged their colleagues to press McConnell to do more.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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