A last-minute measure to avert a government shutdown has been blocked in the US Senate, and President Donald Trump says efforts to secure a funding deal are “not looking good”.
Republicans and Democrats now have less than two hours to hash out a deal to keep the government open.
Without one, a partial shutdown will begin at midnight (local time, 4:00pm AEDT), on the first anniversary of Mr Trump’s inauguration.
A deal to fund the government through February 16 and avoid a shutdown was approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives yesterday, but was blocked in the Senate this afternoon.
It was defeated 50 votes to 48, short of the 60 votes needed to pass.
The vast majority of Democratic senators have said they would not support the funding bill unless it included protections for some 700,000 young people who came to the US illegally as children.
Known as “Dreamers”, their right to remain in the US is due to be revoked in early March.
Republicans have so far refused, and before the Senate vote Mr Trump said the outcome was “not looking good”.
He is blaming Democrats, saying they want a shutdown “in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy”.
If the government shuts down, which has only happened three times in a meaningful way since 1995, hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” federal workers may be told to stay home.
“Essential” employees, dealing with public safety and national security, would keep working.
It would be the first time a shutdown has occurred whilst one party, in this case the Republicans, control both Congress and the White House.
Congress has been struggling for months to agree on long-term government funding levels but has been side-tracked by the dispute on immigration.
The Government has been operating on a third temporary funding measure since the new fiscal year began in October.
Mr Trump met with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer at the White House earlier today in search of a breakthrough.
“Making progress — four week extension would be best,” Mr Trump said in a tweet.
Mr Schumer agreed that some progress had been made but said there were still a number of disagreements.