That 2011 sequester law is really haunting Congress right now.

Lurking behind the debates around the government shutdown, there’s a problem Republicans need to deal with — one that gives Democrats leverage in negotiations.

That problem is budget caps, which put a hard upper limit on how much Congress can spend on military and domestic programs.

It all goes back to 2011, when an Obama-era impasse over the debt ceiling brought the American economy to near calamity. The ultimate result was the 2013 sequester, which set into law across-the-board budget cuts and established caps that would amount to $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years.

It’s important to remember that these sequester caps were never supposed to actually go into effect. They were designed to force a compromise. To win Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling, Obama agreed to push Congress to reduce the national debt, threatening cuts to domestic programs, which Democrats didn’t want, and to military spending, which Republicans didn’t want.

Since the sequester, there have been two bipartisan deals to raise the caps by billions of dollars. The first in 2013 was forged between Paul Ryan and Patty Murray and a second was agreed upon in 2015.

There’s no question that Trump wants Congress to do that again. His proposed defense budget busts the sequester cap by tens of billions. There’s just one problem: Congress needs 60 votes in the Senate.

Congress now has until January 19 — less than two weeks — to find a way to avoid a government shutdown and a sequester. Democrats don’t often find themselves in a position to leverage their agenda, but the sequester caps open a path to get protections for the undocumented immigrants previously covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and permanent funding for the Children’s Read More Here