As Congress reconvenes after a holiday weekend in their first day back at the Capitol, there's one thing on everyone's mind: Will there be a shutdown?
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's Democratic whip, who's taken the lead on immigration negotiations for his party in the chamber, was asked Tuesday afternoon if he could support a short-term spending bill that did not include a plan to protect recipients of the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
16 Democrats voted to keep the government funded last month
They might be the ones this time to determine whether the bill passes
Durbin told reporters "we'll wait and see," a telling sign that perhaps the most watched Democrat on the issue refused to say if he would vote to shut down the government over it.
Should House Republicans have the votes for their spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need at least nine Democrats to vote "yes" again on a short-term funding bill -- or more, depending on whether any Republicans vote against the continuing resolution or are absent due to health reasons.
While Durbin seemed to signal the decision hasn't been made yet, some Democrats have made it clear they won't support a measure to continue funding the government without a guarantee there is a plan on the way to protect hundreds of thousands of young DACA recipients, as the program expires in March.
The 16 Democrats who voted for the last stopgap bill to keep the government funded could be a good starting point to predict the outcome this week.
After they voted for the bill, many of them -- some who are facing tough re-election campaigns this year -- were hammered by immigration advocates and the Democratic base for doing just that.
Those Democratic senators are:
- Tom Carper of Delaware
- Chris Coons of Delaware
- Joe Donnelly of Indiana
- Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
- Martin Heinrich of New Mexico
- Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota
- Tim Kaine of Virginia
- Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats
- Patrick Leahy of Vermont
- Joe Manchin of West Virginia
- Claire McCaskill of Missouri
- Bill Nelson of Florida
- Gary Peters of Michigan
- Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire
- Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
- Mark Warner of Virginia
Newly sworn-in Democratic Sens. Doug Jones and Tina Smith weren't in the Senate for the last vote in December, but they're likely to support another short-term funding bill to avoid shutting down the federal government. Though he doesn't face re-election until 2020, Jones is from deeply red Alabama. Smith -- who was appointed to fill the Minnesota seat of Sen. Al Franken, who resigned -- is up for election to a full term in November.
For now, Democrats are largely waiting to see what Republicans can produce ahead of the Friday deadline, but there is a serious undercurrent itching for a fight inside the party and its activist base, aides say.