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Senate Democrats appear to derail bill to avert shutdown

11 p.m.Senate Democrats appear to have derailed a Republican bill aimed at preventing a federal shutdown set to begin as soon as the calendar flips to Saturday.

Friday’s late-night vote means at least a short government closure is all but unavoidable. There have been no clear public signs that the two parties have significantly narrowed their disputes over immigration and the budget.

The House approved the measure Thursday over Democratic opposition. It would keep agencies afloat through Feb. 16, but Democrats want a package lasting just days in hopes of intensifying pressure on the GOP to compromise.

Republicans control the Senate 51-49. The GOP needed 60 votes to prevail, but the tally was 50-48 as of 11 p.m. Eastern time. The Senate is awaiting a final vote from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

10:30 p.m. The Trump administration will exempt several hundred presidential staffers from mandatory furloughs if the government shuts down at midnight.

Contingency plans released Friday night show that 659 Executive Office of the President staffers would be allowed to report to duty because they are considered essential workers. More than 1,000 of 1,700 staffers would be furloughed.

The number is higher than the Obama administration, which deemed 545 staffers essential in 2015.

The Executive Office of the President includes those who work in White House Office, the Office of the Vice President and the National Security Council, among others.

9:30 p.m. President Donald Trump says efforts to avert a government shutdown are “Not looking good.”

Trump says in a tweet late Friday evening that it’s “Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border.”

And he’s blaming Democrats, saying they want a federal government shutdown “in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy.”

Lawmakers are trying to hash out a deal to keep the federal government open. A partial shutdown will begin at midnight if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill.

8:55 p.m. Newly minted Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones is breaking ranks with party leaders and will vote for the House-passed Republican bill preventing a federal shutdown.

Jones tells The Associated Press he will “reluctantly” vote for the measure late Friday. He says he’s backing it because the measure contains fresh financing for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which helps low-income children.

It will be Jones’ highest-profile vote since he joined the Senate Jan. 3 after his upset special election victory over conservative Roy Moore.

Democrats say they have the votes to block the GOP measure. Republicans control the Senate 51-49 but need 60 votes to prevail.

Jones joins at least three other Democrats saying they’ll support the bill: North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

7:20 p.m.: The Senate has scheduled a showdown vote for 10 p.m. EST on preventing a federal government shutdown. Democrats are ready to block the Republican measure.

Unless Congress approves some legislation providing money, government agencies will begin shutting down at midnight.

The initial impact on most people will be slight, but the closure will raise the stakes in a partisan fight over immigration and the budget.

The House approved a bill Thursday keeping agencies open through Feb. 16.

Led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, most Democrats are opposing the measure.

Republicans control the Senate 51-49 but need 60 votes to prevail. More than enough Democrats appear ready to vote “no.”

Administration officials say President Donald Trump would be allowed to travel to Davos, Switzerland, next week even if the government has been partially shut down.

Senior administration officials told reporters in a background briefing call that the president is permitted to continue to exercise his constitutional duties during a funding lapse. That includes carrying out diplomacy. Trump is planning to attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting next week in Switzerland. He plans to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, among others.

The officials declined to comment on whether the president would be able to travel to Florida this weekend to spend time at his Mar-a-Lago club.

5:58 p.m.: President Donald Trump is striking an optimistic tone as the deadline for a federal government shutdown nears.

Trump tweeted Friday afternoon, less than seven hours before the midnight deadline, that he had “an excellent preliminary meeting” in the Oval Office with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

He is also praising the role being played by fellow Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Trump says negotiators are “making progress” and says a four-week spending extension “would be best.” That’s what the House passed Thursday.

Schumer told reporters after the White House meeting that progress had been made but a deal had not yet been reached.

2:46 p.m. President Donald Trump and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met Friday afternoon in an eleventh-hour effort to avert a government shutdown, with a bitterly divided Washington locked in partisan stare-down over politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being deported.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House traded blame for the possible shutdown just hours before the midnight deadline. And Trump phoned the New York lawmaker to invite him to the White House to try to reach some sort of accord.

“We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements,” Schumer told reporters upon returning to Capitol Hill.

As news of the Schumer meeting spread, the White House sought to reassure Republican congressional leaders that Trump would not make any major policy concessions, said a person familiar with the conversations but not authorized to be quoted by name.

Democrats in the Senate have served notice they will filibuster a four-week, government-wide funding bill that cleared the House Thursday evening. That could expose them to charges that they are responsible for a shutdown, but they point the finger at Republicans instead.

READ MORE: Lessons from the last time the government shut down

“They’re in charge,” Schumer said Friday as he entered his Capitol office. “They’re not talking to us. They’re totally paralyzed and inept. There’s no one to negotiate with.”

Republicans controlling the narrowly split chamber argue that it’s the Democrats who are holding the government hostage over demands to protect “dreamer” immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally.

And the White House piled on, trying to paint the impending action as the “Schumer shutdown.” Still, officials said the president has been working the phones trying to avert one. The White House said Trump would not leave for a planned weekend trip to Florida if there was no agreement. The president had been set to leave Friday afternoon to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach estate marking the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

The impact of the potential shutdown on the planned trip by Trump and much of his Cabinet to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week was still undetermined.

Trump entered the fray early Friday morning, mentioning the House-approved bill on Twitter, adding: “Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate — but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”

Trump has given Congress until March 5 to save the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting young immigrants, so “there is absolutely no reason to tie those things together right now,” Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at the White House.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hoped to vote on the House-passed bill “soon,” and he said Americans at home would be watching to see “which senators make the patriotic decision” and which “vote to shove aside veterans, military families and vulnerable children to hold the entire country hostage… until we pass an immigration bill.” A Senate GOP aide said McConnell was not attending the White House meeting because Trump had only issued the invitation to Schumer.

In the House, Republicans muscled the measure through on a mostly party-line 230-197 vote after making modest concessions to chamber conservatives and defense hawks.

The chamber backed away from a plan to adjourn for a one-week recess Friday afternoon, meaning the GOP-controlled House could wait to see if a last-minute compromise would be reached requiring a new vote.

A test vote on a filibuster by Senate Democrats appeared likely before the shutdown deadline. Schumer was rebuffed in an attempt to vote Thursday night.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” said Schumer, insisting on more urgency in talks on immigration. “In another month, we’ll be right back here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better position to solve them.”

Marc Short, director of legislative affairs, and Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, discussed the prospects of a government shutdown earlier Friday. Mulvaney said the chances of a shutdown are “between 50 and 60 percent.”

The short-term measure would be the fourth stopgap spending bill since the current budget year started in October. A pile of unfinished Capitol Hill business has been on hold, first as Republicans ironed out last fall’s tax bill and now as Democrats insist on progress on immigration. Talks on a budget deal to ease tight spending limits on both the Pentagon and domestic agencies are on hold, as is progress on a huge $80 billion-plus disaster aid bill.

House GOP leaders sweetened the pending stopgap measure with legislation to extend for six years a popular health care program for children from low-income families and two-year delays in unpopular “Obamacare” taxes on medical devices and generous employer-provided health plans.

A shutdown would be the first since 2013, when tea party Republicans — in a strategy not unlike the one Schumer is employing now — sought to use a must-pass funding bill to try to force then-President Barack Obama into delaying implementation of his marquee health care law. At the time, Trump told Fox & Friends that the ultimate blame for a shutdown lies at the top. “I really think the pressure is on the president,” he said.

Arguing that Trump’s predecessors “weaponized” that shutdown, Mulvaney said Friday the budget office would direct agencies to work to mitigate the impact of a potential lapse in funding.

“The difference between now and 2013 is that the president is standing in the way of a bipartisan agreement,” Schumer said, referring to a proposal forged by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., among others, that would provide protections to dreamer immigrants, fund border security, and eliminate an immigration lottery aimed at promoting diversity.

Democrats want a deal to protect around 700,000 immigrants from deportation who arrived in the U.S. as children and have stayed here illegally. Trump has ended an Obama-era program providing those protections and given Congress until March to restore them, and he and Republicans want any immigration deal to include money for the president’s promised wall along the Mexican border and other security measures.

Congress must act by midnight Friday or the government will begin immediately locking its doors. Though the impact would initially be spotty — since most agencies would be closed until Monday — the story would be certain to dominate weekend news coverage, and each party would be gambling the public would blame the other.

In the event of a shutdown, food inspections, federal law enforcement, airport security checks, and other vital services would continue, as would Social Security, other federal benefit programs and military operations. But most federal workers wouldn’t be paid.

What happens during a government shutdown?

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