Cameron Joseph

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.

Articles by Cameron

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) won’t run for another term, he announced Wednesday, making him the latest GOP chairman to announce he’s heading for the exits in recent months.

“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political elected office,” Gowdy said in a statement. “Instead I will be returning to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system.”

His announcement makes him the ninth Republican committee chairman to announce he’s leaving, the second this week alone, and the second Oversight chairman in less than a year, as former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) quit to take a job at Fox News last year.

Gowdy’s retirement will leave the GOP without one of their most aggressive bulldogs. The former prosecutor relentlessly led Republicans’ Benghazi investigation, a push that effectively damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He’s long expressed interest in becoming a federal judge. A seat on the Fourth Circuit Court, which covers South Carolina, became vacant just yesterday, and the current U.S. attorney in South Carolina is serving in an interim role

House Republicans have been retiring at record rates this year, outpacing even previous wave elections. There are now 34 GOP lawmakers who won’t be back next year. But unlike some others, Gowdy isn’t leaving because of a potentially tough reelection fight. His Upstate South Carolina seat is safely Republican — President Trump won it by a 25-point margin.

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The Justice Department has dropped its plan to retry Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on corruption charges, an abrupt about-face that keeps him from another arduous trial and likely protects his place in the Senate.

The decision comes one week after a federal judge acquitted Menendez and his co-defendant, wealthy patron Solomon Melgen, of seven of the 18 counts they faced. An earlier trial had ended in a hung jury — with a reported 10 of the dozen members of the jury supporting acquittal.

“Given the impact of the Court’s Jan. 24 Order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges,” a DOJ spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

It’s become significantly more difficult to prosecute politicians for corruption since the Supreme Court tossed out former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) conviction in 2016, and while the accusations that Menendez helped Melgen with his business interests as well as getting him visas for young women he was seeing in exchange for campaign contributions are rather unsavory, under current law it appeared unlikely that he’d be convicted.

Menendez celebrated the news.

“From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail.  I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion,” he said in a statement. “I have devoted my life to serving the people of New Jersey, and am forever thankful for all who have stood by me. No matter the challenges ahead, I will never stop fighting for New Jersey and the values we share.”

Menendez faces reelection this year, and an ongoing trial would have cast a dark cloud over him and possibly could have ended his career. But New Jersey Democratic power-brokers including Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Cory Booker and (most importantly) party boss George Norcross had all rallied around him, all but erasing any chance of a serious primary challenge. While Menendez’s approval ratings are currently in the toilet, it’s hard to see the GOP mounting a serious challenge against him in the Democratic-leaning state now that he won’t be facing trial.

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Democrats gave President Trump a chance in his first joint address to Congress last February. After a year of norm-shattering and race-baiting, they weren’t so polite.

Many congressional Democrats sat stonily as President Trump entered the House chamber Tuesday night, refusing to join in the normal bipartisan applause for the president. They audibly groaned during many portions of his speech. Lines tailored for bipartisan applause landed flat. Democrats snickered when Trump described his hardline immigration plan as “bipartisan.” Many wouldn’t even clap when Trump proclaimed “the state of our union is strong.” And when he laid out false claims about family migration visas, more than a handful yelled “lies” at the president.

State of the Union speeches are rarely bipartisan love affairs, but a year into Trump’s presidency, his often-partisan speech and Democrats’ harsh reaction put on display just how divided he’s left America.

“The immigration portion was so xenophobic and anti-immigrant and that’s just not the foundation of America,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) told TPM after the speech. “I’ve always felt like you should stare a bully in the face and never walk away from a fight and it’s clear to me that this president has it out for people who don’t look like him, who are not of the same background, and that’s anti-American.”

“His speech was stoking the flames of xenophobia and racism in our country,” she continued, slamming Trump for his veiled attack against NFL players who’ve chosen to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans. “I chose to come because I respect the office. But what’s clear from listening to his speech is he doesn’t respect the office. He wasn’t talking about all Americans, he wasn’t talking to all Americans tonight, he was talking to a select group of his base.”

She wasn’t alone in her fury.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) told TPM she wasn’t one of the Democrats who shouted “lies” at the podium during Trump’s speech — “I yelled ‘wrong.'”

“We got teleprompter Trump tonight,” she said. “All of that belies the kind of actions he’s taken in a full year as president. He has not shown compassion. He’s not shown love. In trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act he’s not shown any care about the health issues for millions of Americans. … We’ve had a year of totally outside the norm behavior as president.”

Dozens of Democratic congresswomen wore all black, wearing “time’s up” pins to honor the #metoo movement that has been partly spurred by Trump’s treatment of women. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus wore ties and scarves with kente African print patterns, a visible protest of the president’s “shithole countries” comment.

Democrats’ palpable hostility didn’t go unreturned. Republicans noticed Democrats’ silent protests and responded by trolling them, seeming to drag out their first standing ovation as long as possible as they goaded their colleagues across the aisle. They broke into long chants of “USA” twice during the speech.

“I can’t believe they wouldn’t stand for America,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told TPM as he exited the chamber after the speech.

Democrats were furious about particular lines — the “stand for the national anthem” line, his falsehoods about so-called “chain migration,” his line that “Americans are dreamers too.”

“It was hurtful because I think he was trying to diminish them,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who stormed out near the end of the speech, told reporters afterwards. “That’s what we’re trying to say, that ‘dreamers’ are Americans. … for a man who says he cares so much, why belittle them?”

Plenty were annoyed that Trump didn’t offer specifics on bipartisan areas like infrastructure, combating opioid abuse and paid family leave. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) started off clapping during Trump’s infrastructure comments and ended with a scowl, standing and rubbing his fingers together in a “show me the money gesture” during his remarks.

But the last year clearly overshadowed the speech itself — including for many Democrats from states Trump won in 2016.

“The president said almost nothing to try to bring us together. It was a continuation, now twelve months in a row, of divisive language almost to the point of name-calling in how he did that,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told TPM. “He seems to have no interest in governing to and with and for the two-thirds of the people of the country that don’t seem to much like him.”

Correction: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “you lie” at President Obama during a joint address on health care policy, not a State of the Union address, as this post originally stated.

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President Trump heads into his first State of the Union speech with lousy approval numbers across much of the country — but remains fairly popular in a few states with tough Senate races next fall.

That’s according to a bevy of state-level polling Gallup released Tuesday, combining data the firm collected from surveys conducted throughout the last year.

Trump has majority approval rating in just 12 states — but three of those have Democratic senators up for reelection next fall, including the two states where Trump’s numbers are the best, West Virginia and North Dakota. He’s also above water in Montana, as well as in Tennessee, where Democrats hope they might be able to seriously contest an open Senate seat.

These numbers are crucial heading into this fall’s midterms. They’re also powering major strategic decisions with huge policy consequences — including how Democrats will handle ongoing negotiations to try to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) led the red-state Democratic charge to end the shutdown by threatening to retire if Senate leaders didn’t back down.

But these numbers are plenty bleak for Republicans.

Trump’s overall approval rating for his first year in office was a dismal 38 percent, according to Gallup, the lowest first-year numbers in the polling firm’s long history of surveying presidential approval. If he doesn’t bounce back significantly Republicans are likely to take a beating in the upcoming midterms. Crucially, in many red and swing states Democrats are hoping to hold onto this fall, his approval ratings are significantly lower than they were when he was first elected.

Slightly more people disapprove than approve of Trump’s job performance in Republican-leaning Missouri and Indiana, both of which have top-tier Senate races next fall, and his approval rating is 10 points lower than his disapproval rating in a bevy of states key to Senate control: Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada. In Texas, according to Gallup, Trump’s approval rating is at just 39 percent, with 54 percent disapproving, a number that should put a scare into Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as he faces down reelection.

Those numbers are promising for Senate Democrats. But as they look to defend 10 Democrats in states Trump won and pick off two more Senate seats to take control of the chamber, there’s a reason why their strategy and messaging has diverged in recent weeks from their party’s liberal base.

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House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will retire at the end of his term, he announced Monday, opening up another swing district ahead of the 2018 elections.

“Today as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” he said in a Monday statement. “I thank my friends and colleagues with whom I have served.”

Frelinghuysen’s retirement opens up a suburban northern New Jersey seat, boosting Democrats’ chances at winning it in what’s shaping up to be a good year for the party and marking the latest in a string of GOP retirements that have further damaged the party’s chances at holding onto the House. President Trump won the district by just a one-point margin after Mitt Romney carried it by six in 2012, and Democrats had already planned to target it this fall.

He’s the latest senior Republican to decide to head for the exits — and the eighth GOP committee chairman who’s decided to hang things up. Unlike other powerful committee chairmen, Frelinghuysen just won his chairmanship and could continue to serve as chairman for five more years. That makes his retirement is especially notable — a strong sign that his decision was driven by the political headwinds Republicans face this year.

A whopping 24 House Republicans have announced their retirements or already resigned this Congress who aren’t running for higher office, compared with just seven Democrats. That retirement rate is even higher than ahead of previous wave elections like 2010, 2006 and 1994.

Frelinghuysen had clearly been feeling that heat after decades without a serious campaign challenge (he’d once been so safe in the district that Michael Moore tried to run a ficus plant as a write-in against him to illustrate the lack of competition). He drew national attention last year for contacting the boss of a local constituent who’d been leading protests against him to complain about her. Late last year, the normally reliable fiscal conservative joined a number of other New Jersey Republicans in voting against the GOP’s recent corporate tax cuts because some of the pay-fors are projected to badly hurt New Jersey real estate, drawing the ire of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

His retirement also marks the potential end of a centuries-old political dynasty in New Jersey dating back to the Revolutionary War. Four Frelinghuysens have served as New Jersey senators, and the congressman’s father held his congressional seat for decades from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Both parties pledged to hotly contest his seat in next year’s midterms.

“Congressman Frelinghuysen’s record of service to New Jersey’s 11th district will be remembered for decades to come,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) said in a statement. “This district has been held by a Republican since the 1980’s, and we plan to keep it that way in November.”

“Representative Frelinghuysen’s retirement opens up a very competitive seat that is moving quickly towards Democrats,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Evan Lukaske said. “Democrats are confident that this seat will turn blue next November.”

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Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) will retire at the end of his term, he told GOP leaders Thursday, days after it became public that a senior staffer had accused him of sexual misconduct and he’d settled using taxpayer dollars.

Meehan’s decision comes after he sought to defend his relationship with a former aide, arguing it had never been sexual in nature while at the same time admitting that he’d acted inappropriately toward her.

The congressman until recently sat on the powerful House Ethics Committee that oversaw investigations of scandals, including sexual harassment claims, and his burgeoning scandal threatened to further damage the national image of a party that’s already struggling badly with female voters in recent polls and elections.

His decision to retire opens up a swing House seat in suburban Philadelphia. Democrats would likely be favored to win this seat in what’s shaping up to be a good year, and a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the GOP-drawn congressional map is an illegal partisan gerrymander may make the district even more Democratic, giving the party a prime pickup opportunity.

Republicans walked a fine line in acknowledging Meehan’s decision to leave, declining to criticize him directly while promising to hold his seat.

“While I’m disappointed by the circumstances leading to Congressman Meehan’s retirement, I thank him for his dedication to his district. We must always hold ourselves to the highest possible standard – especially while serving in Congress,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) said in a Thursday night statement. “I am confident that the voters of Pennsylvania’s 7th District will elect a strong conservative who will represent their values.”

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This story was updated at 3:30 p.m.

Progressives and immigrant advocates are furious at Senate Democrats for agreeing to end a short-lived shutdown without any guarantee that they’ll win protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as youngsters, seeing it as a full-scale capitulation by the party.

The majority of Senate Democrats voted Monday for a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, less than three days after standing together to force a short-lived government shutdown. In doing so, they managed only to secure a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that he’d allow them to bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote if no deal is reached before then.

The deal infuriated the left-wing groups and immigration advocates who had cheered their Friday stand — with many warning of recriminations, the first major schism on the left since President Trump’s election.

“It’s morally reprehensible and political malpractice. It’s [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer’s job to keep his caucus together and stand up for progressive values and he failed on both fronts,” Ezra Levin, a leader of the Indivisible Project, told TPM shortly after the vote. “We’re going to be holding the Democrats accountable who caved.”

Levin’s group was among those on a conference call late Monday morning encouraging Democrats to stand strong on the vote. When TPM informed them during the call that Senate leaders had decided against doing so, the news was met with a stunned silence. After a few seconds Frank Sharry, the head of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice, weighed to say he had “a lot of concern” about its details.

“They grew a pair on Friday night and they couldn’t find them today,” Sharry told TPM in a follow-up conversation after the vote. “Friday night, Democrats stood together and said ‘we’re going to take on this racist bully.’ … By Monday morning they were climbing down for very little in return. Come on, Democrats.”

Sharry said he and other advocates wanted Democrats to stare down President Trump and the GOP for the next few days to let the pressure build and try to force them to the negotiating table once again. Instead, Trump refused to negotiate — and Democrats were the ones to crumble.

“What were Democrats thinking?” he said. “We’re pissed.”

He’s not the only one.

“Enough is enough. We cannot rely on empty promises from those who have already proven to play politics with the lives of Dreamers. Today, Republicans — and too many Democrats — in Congress betrayed our American values and allowed bigotry and fear to prevail,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lorella Praeli said in a statement. “We will be watching, and will make sure voters this November know if their representatives stood for Dreamers or for their deportation.”

“The Democrats need to stand strong,” said Center for American Progress head Neera Tanden.

Outside groups weren’t the only ones who were furious. A number of Senate Democratic offices felt that their leadership had led them into a situation where they had no good options, hurting moderates by forcing a shutdown and then hurting the entire party with its base by capitulating so fast.

More than a dozen Senate Democrats broke with party leaders to vote against the bill, including a number of potential presidential candidates, a sign they know exactly where the base is. While most of them declined to take shots at their leaders, they clearly weren’t happy with the sudden about-face, warning not to trust McConnell’s promises.

“I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever and I believe it would be foolhardy to believe he made a commitment,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) told reporters after the vote.

Red-state Democrats facing tough reelections this fall didn’t want the shutdown square-off over immigration in the first place. On the other side, liberal Democrats who gladly stood with party leaders on Friday weren’t happy they decided to cave on Monday, even as many went along on the vote.

“I’m so goddamn mad,” one senior aide to a Democratic senator who voted to reopen the government on Monday after voting against it on Friday. “We went to the mat to prove to DREAMers we would, without any clear plan for moving forward. And we ended up in a position where moderates realized that — too late — and forced us into giving up and reopening [the government].”

Other Democrats said said it was a losing fight from the start — one where they only could have won with a broad argument about GOP dysfunction hurting voters, not a specific one on immigration.

“Shutting down the government over any issue never works, and we put so much pressure on DACA being the reason that it lost the message narrative. This was our best way out,” another senior Senate Democratic aide told TPM. “The outside groups have to own this. Dreamer groups saw our messaging and then boxed us into a corner, we couldn’t say ‘these are all the things we’re fighting for.’ … We failed fast, that’s okay. Now we need to turn and pivot and do a better job of unifying around a message on their dysfunction.”

Democrats say the decision to bow out now lets them fight another day and hopefully get things right this time. But they admit they’re not out of the woods yet, warning that the original shutdown may hurt Democrats’ electoral prospects in 2018 both by temporarily sticking the red-state members with the shutdown and hurting base enthusiasm by quickly caving in.

Unless Democrats managed to secure the DREAM Act in the next few weeks — a long shot as the White House ruled out a compromise piece of bipartisan legislation immediately after the vote — they warned things might just get worse for the party.

“I have no idea what the end game is here,” said the first aide.

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This post was last updated at 1:15 p.m. EST. Alice Ollstein and Tierney Sneed contributed.

The Senate voted to end a government shutdown on Monday afternoon after Democrats agreed to support a short-term deal in exchange for a promised vote on a bill to protect undocumented immigrants brought here as children.

The lopsided 81-18 vote is a major step towards ending a shutdown that had begun as the clock hit midnight on Friday night. And while many immigration advocates are irate about a deal they see as a capitulation, it’s far from the end of the fight over immigration and government funding.

“The Republican leader and I have come to an arrangement. We will vote today to reopen the government,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor early Monday afternoon. “The Republican majority now has 17 days to prevent the DREAMers from being deported.”

The deal will keep the government open until Feb. 8, prolonging the showdown over whether to return legal status to undocumented immigrants brought here as children as well as the fight over military spending levels and other major issues.  The bill also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is running out of funds, for the next six years. And it brings a temporary reprieve for federal government workers as well as the red-state Democrats who were increasingly panicking the deal could imperil their reelection chances.

“If we’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something the American people didn’t understand and would not have understood in the future,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said shortly before the vote.

McConnell committed to bring a version of the DREAM Act to the floor and let it be debated through an open amendment process if lawmakers can’t agree to a deal before then.

“The outcome is not preordained. There may be a new version that can attract even more support.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a moderate working towards a bipartisan deal, told reporters shortly after the vote.

Senate Democratic leaders’ decision to take the deal was immediately lambasted as a cave-in from immigrant advocates and many on the left, and could hurt the party with its base, though Senate Democrats from states Trump won are glad the fight is over for now.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), the leading advocate fighting for legal status for undocumented immigrants in the Senate, backed up Schumer’s move before bucking up immigration advocates who are furious about a move many see as a cave.

“To all the DREAMers who are watching today: Don’t give up,” Durbin said. “Three weeks from now, I hope to be joining you and celebrating.”

But while Durbin and most Democrats came along, many of the party’s other fiercest immigration advocates — and nearly all of its potential 2020 presidential candidates — voted against it.

Among the no votes: Potential presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever and I believe it would be foolhardy to believe he made a commitment,” Harris said about McConnell’s promise for a DACA vote.

Notably, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) also voted against the move — significant both because he’s the only red-state Democrat facing a tough 2018 reelection to do so, and because of how far he’s come on immigration since voting against the DREAM Act in 2010.

Tester said DACA wasn’t the reason he voted against the deal, however, lambasting the inability for Congress to offer the military long-term stability and a boost in spending.

“There is nothing about our military having the predictability it needs. It’s another CR with another CR that’s going to happen after that CR,” he told reporters as he exited the vote. “There’s just no commitments except for DACA and that’s not why I voted no on Friday. It was because this whole place is screwed up.”

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This story was updated at 3:10 p.m.

Cranky lawmakers returned to Congress on Saturday no closer to an agreement on ending the government shutdown than they were when the government ran out of funds at midnight the night before. The only thing they could agree on was that it was the other guy’s fault.

Democrats continued to demand that President Trump and GOP leaders include a fix to reinstate legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in any agreement, lambasting Trump for constantly changing his mind on what it would take to reach a deal, while Republicans accused their colleagues across the aisle of throwing a tantrum over immigrants.

Both sides seemed gearing up for a long-term shutdown, confident they’ll win argument with voters and seeming poised to wait until they see how the public reacts to it over the coming days and see if the other side blinks. And while lawmakers voiced hopes that they might be able to reach a short-term agreement before the end of the weekend, few sounded particularly optimistic — with some worried that the longer the shutdown dragged out, the harder it would be to reach a solution.

“I’d like to say it’s going to end pretty fast and I think it probably will end pretty fast because it’s stupid to be doing what we’re doing — but as of right now I don’t know if it’s going to be Friday or Sunday or Monday or Tuesday,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) told TPM early Saturday afternoon. “If it goes past Monday it’s a problem because it becomes easier to stay out and then an issue gets blurred and then personalities get involved and then nobody remembers why they’re fighting but they’re fighting and that’s when you really have trouble.”

That trouble already seemed well in place, with senior lawmakers and the White House going after one another in unusually personal terms as they sought to blame the other side for the ongoing shutdown.

“Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with jello. It’s next to impossible,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters, slamming Trump for tentatively agreeing to a series of possible DACA deals before reneging on those pledges. “As soon as you take one step forward the hard right forces the president three steps back… It’s next to impossible to strike a deal with the president because he can’t stick to the terms.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went hard after Schumer.

“He thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration,” he said in a floor speech to open the Senate on Saturday. “The solution is to end the foolishness that’s hurting millions Americans who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this.”

Things only got worse from there, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney accused Schumer of lying about the amount he offered Trump to fund the wall.

“Mr. Schumer is going to have to up his game a little bit and be more honest with the president of the United States,” he said in a White House briefing.

Schumer’s spokesman shot back:

Some lawmakers were more optimistic that they might be able to reach a deal to reopen the government for less than a month, with Feb. 8 being a date some in both parties bandied about.

“I think that there is a deal to be had, it’s just a matter of the will to get it done, and that’s the frustrating part. But I’m guardedly optimistic we’ll get something done by Monday,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), one of a handful of red-state Democrats who voted with the GOP to keep the government open on Friday night, told TPM.

But many said it was up to the president to show leadership, and nearly all Democrats remained firm in their demand for DACA to be a part of any deal.

“Only the internal workings of the cerebral mechanism of President Trump would answer that question. It is impossible for me to understand,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) told TPM when asked if he thought Congress might find a compromise before the end of the weekend.

And as they left an afternoon meeting, Democrats didn’t seem any closer to having landed on a way forward.

The White House made it clear that immigration was a nonstarter.

“We are committed to making sure the American people, especially our great military and the most vulnerable children are taken care of. The President will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

As both sides dug in, the vulnerable red-state Democrats who face tough reelections this fall voiced growing frustration.

“Forget about elections, forget about all that. This is not what we’re sent here to do. This is not our job. Our job is to keep the place open and running in more of a normal fashion. That’s not happening,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), another Democrat who broke with his party, told reporters as he entered a Democratic meeting Saturday afternoon. “I am pissed off.”

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The Trump administration is looking to soften the blow of the impending government shutdown, a sign it’s worried its impact could hurt them politically.

“We’re going to manage a shutdown differently, we’re not going to weaponize it,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters late Friday morning, less than 13 hours before the government is set to shut down.

“The military will still go to work. They will not be paid. … folks will still be fighting the fire out west. They will not get paid,” he continued. “Parks will be open this time and they weren’t before. … The post office will be open, the TSA will be open.”

Those moves come as a clear sign that the Trump administration is trying to limit the shutdown’s impact on voters (and not screw up their vacation plans) so as to minimize the political fallout of a government shutdown in a city where the GOP has unified control of the government.

While it remains unclear who will take the brunt of the blame for a shutdown, early polls indicate the public will place the blame mostly on Trump and Republicans. A Quinnipiac survey released Thursday found that just 34 percent of Americans would blame Democrats for a shutdown, 32 would blame congressional Republicans and 21 percent would blame Trump.

Senate Democrats have dug in their heels in demanding support for a bipartisan compromise for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and it’s not even clear Senate Republicans have 50 votes to back the plan to keep the government open for another month that the House passed Thursday night, much less the 60 votes they need.

Mulvaney also accused Democrats of “hypocrisy” for demanding DACA as part of a funding deal after opposing the 2013 shutdown — though he himself was instrumental in pushing for that shutdown in an effort to gut Obamacare as a member of the House Freedom Caucus at the time.

“This is exactly what they accused the Republicans of doing in 2013,” he said.

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