As 2018 Ends, There Appears To Be No End In Sight For The Government Shutdown

As 2018 draws to a close, there's no sign that the government shutdown will end any time soon.

eral Government is in the second week of a partial government shutdown, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight:

WASHINGTON — The television is on. The phone is never far away. And President Trump is repeatedly calling allies such as members of Congress and conservative radio hosts, telling them privately that he will not give in on his demand for funding for a border wall.

What the president who campaigned on his ability to cut deals has not done, nine days into a partial government shutdown over his signature campaign issue, is reach out to Democratic congressional leaders to strike one.

Virtually alone in the West Wing since the shutdown began, Mr. Trump has instead taken to Twitter to excoriate Democrats, and highlight that he canceled his own vacation to his private club in Florida while lawmakers left the city. He has lamented the negativity of the news media coverage, which has included repeated airings of Mr. Trump’s declaration in the Oval Office a few weeks ago that he would not blame Democrats for a shutdown, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Even as some lawmakers floated compromises on Sunday, Democrats prepared to pass a bill to fund the government as soon as they take control of the House on Thursday. Like the Democrats, Mr. Trump appears to have dug in. And the uncertainty over what he might sign threatens to indefinitely drag out a shutdown that has affected 800,000 federal workers and shuttered parts of nine cabinet-level departments.

After Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, met with Mr. Trump over lunch on Sunday, he said the president would not accept any deal without funding for the wall. But he remained optimistic that a compromise could be reached and encouraged both sides to come together.

“At the end of the day, there’s a deal to be had,” he said on Sunday. “We need to start talking again.”

Still, Mr. Graham said after the meeting that the president had not signed on to his potential compromise, which would provide wall funding in return for work permits for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. Democrats also have no interest in such a plan right now.

And there were other signs of a lengthy shutdown fight from the White House: The president has a new acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who is not averse to government shutdowns, and some advisers see the timing of the fight as preferable to a year from now, when Democrats will be preparing for the first votes in the 2020 presidential primaries.

The president is also concerned that if he makes a deal, his core political support will falter, and his voters will see him as inauthentic after he talked about a wall in rally after rally for three years. As Mr. Trump was poised to sign a compromise bill ushered through the Republican-controlled Congress that would have funded the government through February, conservative commentators berated him as “gutless,” and some hard-line House Republicans urged him to reconsider. He backed away from the bill soon after.

Adding to the mixed messages over what eventual deal the president would accept, John F. Kelly, the outgoing White House chief of staff, said in an interview published Sunday that the administration had backed away from the idea of a solid concrete wall long ago, even though Mr. Trump had dangled “steel slats” as a potential enticement to lawmakers only in recent weeks.

How it all ends is a mystery.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, there’s basically a stalemate pending the swearing-in of the new Congress on Thursday and it’s absolutely unclear what happens after that:

The Senate’s top appropriator on Sunday declared that efforts to end the partial government shutdown remain “at a standoff” and urged the White House and congressional lawmakers to stop deflecting blame.

“Our negotiations are at an impasse at the moment,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation” in discussing the funding battle.

“I wish it were not so,” Shelby continued, “but we’ve got to move away from the blame game — blaming the president, blaming the Democrats, [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi and [Sen. Chuck] Schumer and others — and get back to doing what we’re sent there to do: to fund the government.”

The shutdown began midnight Friday Dec. 21 after President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress failed to strike a deal over his request for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration has publicly requested roughly $5 billion in taxpayer dollars for the project, while Democrats are offering $1.3 billion for a variety of border security measures.

“Right now, we’re at a standoff, and I think that’s not good for the Senate, the House, or America,” Shelby said Sunday, warning: “If we blame each other this could last a long, long time.”

At this point, there’s basically no hope that anything will happen in the short amount of time left for the 115th Congress to resolve this shutdown, and there doesn’t really appear to be much of an effort to even come close to a deal before Congress adjourns sine die before Noon on January 3rd. This means, of course, that the ball will be in hands of Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats when Congress gets back in town in force later this week. In that regard, Pelosi has made clear that the first order of business for the House of Representatives, after the organizational votes, to formally elect a Speaker and swear in newly elected and re-elected members, will be to take up proposals to end the showdown. The most likely package that the House will take up will be the one that passed the Senate unanimously before Christmas. That bill would have kept the government open through February 8th, but would not have met the President’s demand for funding for his border wall. Alternatively, the bill would have authorized roughly $1.6 billion for “border security,” including the repair of existing fencing and other measures that the Border Patrol has identified as being of a higher priority than funding a wall. The House refused to pass that bill, and instead added an amendment providing the President with the full $5 billion in wall funding that the President demanded. That bill failed to get the votes needed to pass the Senate and, hence, we entered a shutdown the Friday night before Christmas. Since then there has been essentially no progress on either side of the ball, with Congress having left town for the holidays and the President holed up in the White House tweeting away while everyone else tries to figure out what’s going on.

As things stand, the current shutdown already ranks as the 9th longest shutdown in American history, and will most assuredly find itself in the top five before its fully resolved. In fact, as things stand there’s little chance that the shutdown will be fully resolved before the end of this week. The most likely course of events is that the House will pass its measure on Thursday or Friday without funding for the wall and the Republican-controlled Senate will most likely reject it due to the lack of wall funding. This will happen notwithstanding the fact that the same bill passed the Senate via unanimous consent just over a week ago. This will leave us, at least temporarily, back at square one, but it will be at this point that the negotiation between the White House and the Democrats will begin. Where it goes from there, and how long it lasts, is anyone’s guess, but the likelihood is that it will be well into the week of January 7th before we get a resolution of the matter. Meanwhile, some 800,000 Federal workers will wake up on the day after New Year’s Day either furloughed without pay or ordered to work without the prospect that they’ll be paid when the next Federal Government paychecks are set to be cut. This also means an additional number of Federal contractors, including many small to medium-sized businesses, will find themselves cut off from expected payments that most of them were depending on and which now won’t be available at least until government funding is restored.

 

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    Trump just tweeted:

    President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!

    That gave me an idea. I think Chuck & Nancy should propose a compromise: instead of a wall on the border, there should be a long row of signs that say “Beware of Dog.” I bet they could even coax Mexico into paying for it!

  2. CSK says:

    “President and Mrs. Obama has a ten foot Wall…”

    Wow, Trump really does have the best words.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The president is also concerned that if he makes a deal, his core political support will falter, and his voters will see him as inauthentic after he talked about a wall in rally after rally for three years.

    I call “liar liar pants on fire”. Trump has lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied, and lied to his base and they have yet to object even once about his “inauthenticity”. They don’t give a rat’s ass about anything other than pissing on the libtards.

    The most likely package that the House will take up will be the one that passed the Senate unanimously before Christmas.
    ………………….
    The most likely course of events is that the House will pass its measure on Thursday or Friday without funding for the wall and the Republican-controlled Senate will most likely reject it due to the lack of wall funding.

    The politics here is just to sweet to pass up, it would be political malpractice NOT to do this. Get Mitch and his GOP comrades on record opposing the very deal he already ran thru the Senate w/ trump’s approval. “I was for it before I was against it.” The hypocrisy couldn’t be more evident.

    Once that is done and in the history books for 2020, serious negotiations will begin. How they will play out is anybody’s guess. I fully expect at least one complete somersault in trump’s positions and more likely several.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    The only way we’re going to break our politicians of this habit is if the shutdown starts affecting them. Personally. Doug has stated before that we can’t cut their salaries but what about putting it in escrow?

    I also suspect Ol’ Bone Spurs would have a quick change of mind if all the secret service and rest of protection were removed from him. Tell him that there’s no money for gasoline for Air Force One.
    Have him pay for his own food out of his own pocket. Remove all the “little people” working at the White House making the beds, cleaning the toilets, and vacuuming the halls. (Pay them, but let them know they’ve got a nice vacation.)

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  5. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Well, for one thing, President and Mrs. Obama has private property (we’ve always used “has” in this kind of sentence; or do you think a Stable Genius would make such a mistake?)

    For another thing, they’ll post the signs in English and the immigrants may not understand it. Or they’ll get some literal translation that makes no sense like “Cuidado de perro.” (Re translated it means something like “Beware like the dog”)

  6. charon says:

    The difficulty with compromise is many Republicans do not care that much for the Wall, and/or grasp how stupid, expensive, ineffective it is. So GOP in Congress not willing to concede much to get a wall they, in many cases, do not particularly want. Dems, meanwhile, are adamently opposed in many cases, have public with them, it would take big concessions to get Dems to accept a wall.

    Hard to see how to square that circle, other than for Congress to eventually reach some agreement and, if necessary, override a Trump veto.

    1
  7. Kathy says:

    @charon:

    And the Democrats don’t care to give Trump a political victory for his base. Imagine that. Especially as he’s on record, through all fault of his own, as owning the shut down. Meaning they can hand him a political defeat for his base, while avoiding all responsibility for adverse consequences.

    Dennison is progressing from stupidity to outright delusion.

  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    “At the end of the day, there’s a deal to be had,” he said on Sunday. “We need to start talking again.”

    There already was a deal, agreed to by all sides, and then at the last minute the president suddenly went back on his word and demanded more. How do the Democrats know anything they negotiate now won’t similarly be rejected with a demand for even more?

    The problem is Trump has made it impossible to negotiate with him in good faith and the nature of the political process makes it impossible for him to go first to prove he’ll stand behind a deal he agrees to.

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  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @charon:

    it would take big concessions to get Dems to accept a wall

    And the only thing the Republicans have offered is to allow a normally functioning government. It says a lot about the state of the current GOP that they consider normal functioning to be a concession to the Democrats.

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  10. Kylopod says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It says a lot about the state of the current GOP that they consider normal functioning to be a concession to the Democrats.

    I don’t think they even view it in those terms, because to them it isn’t a negotiation, it’s a stick-up: your money or your government.

    I remember reading Erick Erickson’s posts on the subject back in 2013, which gave a good sense of the way the right understands shutdowns. He argued that as long as the GOP held steady, the Dems would eventually “blink.” (The wonderful thing about this argument is that it’s literally impossible to disprove: no matter how many times the GOP pulls the shutdown stunt without winning any concessions from the Dems, they can always say their mistake was that they gave in too quickly.) I kept running across a particular phrase in the writings of Erickson and other right-wingers: “power of the purse.” This was one of the right’s favorite bits of jargon during the shutdown fights of the Obama years, used to imply the House had some kind of constitutional authority to put whatever it wanted in the CR and get everyone else to accept it. This argument starts to break down now that Dems are about to take control of the House, but the logic of viewing shutdowns as a game of chicken remains the same. As long as Republicans have the power to keep the government from functioning without some list of demands (and they do as long as they have control of the White House or the Senate or even if they were to lose the Senate in the future, because they’d still have the filibuster), they’ll continue to provoke shutdowns, either under the delusion that it’s an effective method of achieving their policy goals or under the (probably correct) belief that it’s good theater for their base.

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  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Of course, you’re alluding to one of the reasons that shutdown works as a tactic here (and thereby one of the problems). We are probably the only dysfunctional state in the world (but the UK will be there soon, too) where government workers go to work even while not being paid. In most dysfunctional states, the government workers who aren’t getting paid are also not coming to work, making the whole thing even less stable and more dysfunctional.

    As long as workers know they will get paid eventually, shutdown will be a piece of our political theater.

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Nah, even Trump’s smart enough to know that he can buy the Mexican language signs in Mexico.

    Well, maybe not him, personally, but someone in the administration. Maybe Kellyanne, maybe Ivanak, but somebody.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: The problem is that it’s the “little people” who suffer all the financial pain while the Congresscritters and POTUS don’t suffer anything. If you’re someone who’s living pay check to pay check, it’s a Really Big Thing if you don’t get your biweekly payment, with cascading effects on landlords, car finance organisations, etc. But for the high-and-mighty, it’s just another piece of kabuki theatre. “Oh, you’ll get paid….eventually.” Maybe, but I need the cash NOW. Can’t pay my rent with a letter saying “sorry, but my employers are playing political silly buggers and so until they get around to fixing things please let me stay here without paying.”

    The congresscritters and POTUS? None of them care–it’s all political flag-waving. We have to flip that, and make shutdowns HURT the people at the top.

  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @grumpy realist:

    We need an amendment that when there is no budget, the President, Vice President, and Congress are all physically confined to the Capitol until there is one.

  15. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    As long as workers know they will get paid eventually, shutdown will be a piece of our political theater.

    The real victims here are not the federal employees, who will probably survive a few weeks’ delay in their pay.

    It doesn’t seem to get much air outside the beltway (as it were), but the irreversible harm that is being done is to small businesses that depend on either federal workers or federal contracts for their ongoing viability. The IT tech support hotline providers, who don’t get paid when the federal agencies they support are not working. The breakfast and lunch restaurants all around the mall, that operate on thin margins and can’t afford to open their doors when the federal workers who eat there are furloughed. The street vendors who don’t have anyone to sell to when the Smithsonian is closed. Etc.

    It’s bad enough for the feds who have to wait a month to get paid. It’s much worse for the supporting industries that will never make up the loss.

    1
  16. JohnMcC says:

    @DrDaveT: I think what you are describing as being the victim of this stupid shutdown is also called ‘civilization’.