RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Congress loves a deadline - or they must because they keep making them. This time around, Congress has until tomorrow night to strike a deal that avoids a partial government shutdown. If it fails, that would mean the second shutdown in less than a month. And there are a whole lot of big issues to work through, including immigration. President Trump wants lawmakers to work his immigration policies into a spending bill. And if they don't...
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we don't change it, let's have a shutdown. We'll do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country. I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get the stuff taken care of.
MARTIN: We're joined in the studio now by NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, there.
MARTIN: So this is interesting because it's - the president there is directly linking immigration and shutdown talks. But many congressional Republicans have criticized Democrats for trying to tie these two together. So what's going on? Is this a split between the White House and Republicans on these things?
SNELL: It certainly seems to be. We also saw that a congresswoman who was there at the White House with the president tried to walk back the idea of time together immigration and spending right in that same moment.
MARTIN: Because that's how it had been. And...
MARTIN: ...We've gone this route - down this corridor before. These things were linked together, and then they were separated.
SNELL: Right. They were separated when they reached an agreement to reopen the government after that shutdown just a few weeks ago. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he promised that they would move directly to an immigration bill after the spending deadline on Thursday. So the expectation right now is that the Senate will follow through on that, and there will be a votes on immigration starting as early as Friday.
MARTIN: OK. So then let's talk about the spending bill. The House passed another short-term fix last night. Is this going to pass muster at the Senate?
SNELL: It - a different version of this will probably pass in the Senate. So the thing that is included in the House bill that is not appealing to Democrats in the Senate, where Democrats are necessary to get to the 60 votes to pass a spending bill.
MARTIN: Right, they're relevant to this.
SNELL: Right. They are. And they do not support the idea of funding the military for a different amount of time and at a different level than domestic programs. And that's what's done in the House bill. So the bill will come over to the Senate. And the expectation is they will take out the military funding and possibly add in a big, two-year budget and spending deal that would set the spending levels for military, domestic, for the entire government for two years and get rid of this headache of shutdown threat after shutdown threat.
MARTIN: And then that, though, would have to go back to the House.
SNELL: It would. It would have to go back to the House, and we're talking about a fairly short timeline here. So the Senate would have to process all of that sometime in the next 24 hours and get it immediately over to the Senate - I'm sorry - the Senate would process it, send it immediately to the House, and it would rush things through.
MARTIN: And are we optimistic that that would happen?
SNELL: Right now, things look good. I was talking to senators yesterday who said that this was the best argument they've had in a while on spending, that they were inches - fractions of an inch away, and they thought that this was really coming together. That was all at the end of the day yesterday. Things can change, but it was looking good.
MARTIN: And so in the interim - the debate over DACA - I mean, those protections are still up in the air. And so Democrats are just putting their faith in Republicans that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring this up and that it'll get fixed.
SNELL: Well, they're putting their faith in the negotiations that have been ongoing. Bipartisan negotiations have been happening, and things looked like they were going fairly well. There are still some issues over how the parents of people who are protected by DACA would be handled under this and how much money would be spent on the wall. But things were moving in a positive direction. We still don't know what the base bill is that they would start with, but there will be opportunity for amendments next week once they get started.
MARTIN: OK. NPR's Kelsey Snell. She reports on Congress for us.
Thanks so much, Kelsey.
SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.