The US Congress is racing against the clock to avoid a federal government shutdown before a midnight deadline on Friday after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer failed to produce a deal.
Mr Trump invited Mr Schumer to the White House for talks as a stopgap bill to fund the federal government through February 16 appeared headed for defeat in the Senate, where Democratic votes are needed to pass it.
Mr Trump said the meeting was “excellent” and that efforts were continuing.
“Making progress – four week extension would be best,” Mr Trump said in a tweet.
Earlier, Mr Schumer said that the meeting lasted about 90 minutes and that differences remained in the pursuit of a short-term spending bill to keep the government running.
Democrats are demanding that the stopgap bill include protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants but Republicans have so far refused.
“We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements.
Nobody wants to shut down the govt, not Dems, not the GOP.
The only one who has ever rooted for a shutdown is @realDonaldTrump who said our country could use “a good shutdown” – only he could come up with that. But no shutdown can be good for the American people.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 19, 2018
“The discussions will continue,” Mr Schumer told reporters after the meeting, also attended by each man’s chief of staff – John Kelly for Mr Trump and Mike Lynch for Mr Schumer.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved the stopgap spending measure late on Thursday, but it has been sidetracked in the Senate by a dispute over immigration.
The House recessed on Friday for a week-long break, but members were warned they could be called back for votes.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said he was ratcheting up the likelihood of a government shutdown from 30 per cent to a 50-50 possibility.
The shutdown would begin on the first anniversary of Mr Trump’s inauguration as president, and put hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” federal workers on temporary unpaid leave.
In an earlier tweet, Mr Trump said shutting down the government was “a very serious thing”.
“Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. I don’t know how I would vote right now on a CR, OK?”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif)https://t.co/7xP3CBnv5j
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 19, 2018
“Essential” employees who deal with public safety and national security would keep working.
There have only been three meaningful government shutdowns since 1995.
The showdown follows a months-long struggle in Congress to agree on government funding levels and the immigration issue.
The federal government is operating on a third temporary funding measure since the new fiscal year began in October.
Democrats have demanded the bill include protections from deportation for 700,000 young undocumented immigrants.
Those children, known as “Dreamers,” were brought into the United States as children, largely from Mexico and Central America, and given temporary legal status under a program started by former President Barack Obama.
Many have been educated in the United States and know no other country.
In September, Mr Trump announced he was ending the program and giving Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative replacement.