As Shutdown Continues, Republicans Begin To Fear Defections

As the shutdown drags on, Republicans are beginning to fear that members in the House and Senate may begin to fall away from supporting the President.

Politico is reporting this morning that Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to fear that support is slipping for the White House’s position on the government shutdown, which has now officially become the second longest such shutdown in American history:

Several dozen House Republicans might cross the aisle this week to vote for Democratic bills to reopen shuttered parts of the federal government, spurring the White House into a dramatic effort tostem potential GOP defections.

White House officials and Republican congressional leaders worry that GOP support for the shutdown is eroding, weakening President Donald Trump’s hand as he seeks billions of dollars for a border wall that Democrats have vowed to oppose, according to GOP lawmakers and aides.

Hoping to sway skeptics in his party and the broader public, Trump will make an Oval Office address Tuesday night to discuss what he called the “Humanitarian and National Security Crisis on our Southern Border,” he said on Twitter. Then he will visit the border region on Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will address House Republicans on Tuesday evening. The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a Democratic bill designed to fund the IRS and several other agencies, the first of four bills Democrats hope will peel off Trump’s GOP support in the House.

Without more money, the IRS could have a problem processing tax refunds. Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, reversed course Monday and said refunds will be paid out, another move by the White House to mitigate the effects of the shutdown.

The Democratic funding measure is one of several narrow measuresthat Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and party leaders will push forward this week. The bills are designed to put pressure on GOP lawmakers to break with Trump and support re-opening the nine departments hit by the 17-day shutdown. More than 800,000 federal workers are currently not getting paid — roughly 350,000 remain on the job without pay — with their first missed paycheck coming later this week.

Despite the White House PR blitz, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and other senior Republicans believe that “a significant bloc” of House Republicans could vote with Democrats on the funding measures, according to GOP lawmakers and aides.

A senior House GOP aide said McCarthy and his top lieutenants believe 15 to 25 Republicans will vote with Democrats this week, possibly even more.

“We have a lot of members who are gonna want to vote for these things,” said the GOP aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Publicly, we will never tell them to do it. Privately, we will tell them to do what they have to do.”

However, GOP leaders say they can keep that number below 55, a key threshold. That many Republican defections, coupled with all House Democrats, would reach 290 “yes” votes, a veto-proof majority. House Democrats can’t overcome Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) refusal to bring up their bills, but such a vote would signal the House can override a Trump veto, a major blow to the president and his allies.

“The biggest thing we can do to back the president up is to keep it below veto proof,” the GOP aide added. “That’s a win for us.”

“I think the more that you have people not getting paid, the more the stories coming out about the hardships this shutdown is creating, not just for federal workers but those who rely on federal agencies to get their work done, people are shaking their heads,” said Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, one of seven House Republicans who voted with Democrats last week to reopen the government. “I think it’s a pretty unsustainable position, and I felt that early on.”

In forcing these votes, Pelosi and Democratic leaders have copied a GOP tactic from the 2013 shutdown, when a battle over Obamacare led to a 16-day government shutdown.

At the time, House GOP leaders made Democrats take dozens of votes to fund national parks, low-income nutrition assistance, Head Start and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among others.

All of this comes at a time when the impact of the shutdown is being felt in the real world outside of Washington and as the President contemplates declaring a dubious “national emergency” to make an end-run around Congress, and prepares to address the nation from the Oval Office tonight:

WASHINGTON — President Trump unleashed an offensive on Monday to persuade Americans that a “humanitarian and security crisis” on the southern border must be addressed before a government shutdown can end, announcing a prime-time address for Tuesday and a trip to the border later in the week.

Vice President Mike Pence briefed reporters on the status of negotiations in a hastily arranged session, part of an orchestrated effort to sway balking Democrats who say the government should reopen while they wrangle over Mr. Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to begin his border wall.

The shutdown, heading into Day 18, has become a critical test for Mr. Trump, who campaigned as a master negotiator and deal maker but so far has achieved virtually no agreements with Democrats. Already, it is the second-longest breakdown in government funding in the nation’s history, affecting about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will miss their first paycheck this week. The president has offered little to his Democratic adversaries to lure them to the table.

Now, he will try to use a broad-based public appeal to raise the pressure.

Senate Democrats, for their part, were moving to halt legislation to pressure Republicans to reopen the government, starting Tuesday. And late Monday, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate released a joint statement demanding equal television time.

“Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,” said the leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. They said that “if his past statements are any indication,” Mr. Trump’s address “will be full of malice and misinformation.”

The vice president, while conceding that no progress was made in weekend negotiations with senior Democratic staff members, said Democrats “did not dispute our facts” about what he called a “humanitarian and security crisis.” Democrats and immigration advocates have argued that the administration has vastly overstated the scope of the border situation.

Democrats said Mr. Pence appeared to be misrepresenting their position. While they agreed there was a crisis at the border, one senior Senate Democratic official said, they see at as a humanitarian rather than national security issue. As such, Democrats view Mr. Trump’s proposed wall as an expensive and pointless response that does nothing to address the needs on the ground.

Several aides briefed on the weekend negotiations said the White House appeared eager to promote agreement on almost anything in lieu of any real progress between the two sides.


The administration’s credibility continues to suffer, as Democrats call out Mr. Trump for falsehoods about the crisis, such as his assertion that former presidents had told him privately that they should have built the wall. On Monday, former President Jimmy Carter joined the list of presidents who said they had never discussed a border wall with Mr. Trump.

With talks to end the shutdown at a standstill, Mr. Pence said the president had directed the Office of Management and Budget to take steps to “mitigate” its effects, including an order to the Internal Revenue Service to issue tax refunds. Under previous shutdown plans — and interpretations of federal law — the I.R.S. was prohibited from dispensing tax refunds when Congress had not approved money to fund the Treasury Department, as is the case now.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats tried to use leverage of their own to force Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to come to the table and pressure Mr. Trump. On Monday, Democrats said they would vote against advancing a package of bipartisan Middle East policy bills slated for consideration this week unless Republicans allowed a vote on bills to reopen shuttered federal departments already passed by the House — a decision that could scuttle its prospects if Democrats stick together.

Senate Democrats did not indicate whether they are ready to block other bills, but their position raised the prospect that a significant portion of the chamber’s work could halt until the Senate gets to vote to reopen the parts of the government now closed.

All of this happens as the government shutdown now reaches its 18th day, meaning that it now officially exceeds the length of the 2013 Obamacare Shutdown and is just three days away from equaling the length of the shutdown that lasted from December 15th, 1995 to January 6, 1996. As things stand, it looks as though we’ll go well beyond the length of that shutdown. While there were some talks over the weekend, they were basically just at the staff level since Congress was out of town for the weekend and not returning until later today. Even with Congress back in town, though, the prospects of any kind of deal coming together in the coming days is fairly unrealistic. The parties are as far apart as they were when all of this started, and there isn’t anything that has happened since then that seems to be serving as an impetus for action that could end up leading to an end to a shutdown.

That lack of an impetus isn’t going to last forever, though. The longer we go on, the more that the “real world” impact of the shutdown will be felt. That will start at the end of this week when hundreds of thousands of Federal workers, both those who are furloughed and those who are considered “essential” and thus being forced to work without the prospect of being paid at least until the shutdown is resolved. The shutdown is also having an impact outside the Federal Government as Federal contractors and businesses that rely on Federal workers are starting to feel the pinch of the lapse in Federal funding. That impact will only become more apparent the longer this shutdown goes on and at some point, someone is likely to reach a breaking point. Until that happens, though, the theater, especially from the White House, will continue and the lack of progress will continue.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Middle East, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. An Interested Party says:

    It’s amusing that the supposed “liberal” media is giving airtime to a serial liar but refused to do so for the previous president…

  2. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Or maybe they’re just happily providing him the opportunity to, once again, make an ass of himself in public.

  3. @An Interested Party:

    The networks gave President Obama airtime plenty of times. I can only think of one time in eight years when the broadcast networks declined a request for primetime coverage.

  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “The biggest thing we can do to back the president up is to keep it below veto proof,” the GOP aide added. “That’s a win for us.”

    Dude, dude, dude, there’s nothing to win here. Zippo. Zilch. Nada.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    …Federal contractors and businesses that rely on Federal workers are starting to feel the pinch of the lapse in Federal funding.

    Which means lobbyists are unhappy. Citizens don’t weigh very heavy on GOP congresscritters, but lobbyists do.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    Mitch McConnell and seemingly a vast majority of Republican congress critters, cannot even imagine a universe in which they crafted bills that could withstand a Presidential veto, no matter how much it would benefit their country. Party UBER ALLES!

  7. Moosebreath says:

    Meanwhile, the people affected by shutdown are saying:

    “I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” (emphasis added)

    But of course, no one had better call them deplorable, because it would hurt their feelings.

  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    800,000 federal workers affected. — That’s OK, according to the Pres, they are democrats.

    Close parks, that’s OK. Stop aid to the poor, that’s OK…

    Tax Refunds not go out? Funny, they found a way to say that will happen, even in a government shutdown.

    Behold the Achilles heel.

  9. KM says:

    Well, duh. We can’t hurt their fee-fees or note they’re racist, sexist bigots who don’t even hide the fact they want fellow Americans to suffer. Also, we’re not allowed to call them snowflakes as they resent us people using that word. That’s their word for making fun of us! They *need* it!

  10. KM says:

    Of course they fear defections. Trump put the GOP, especially those in the Senate, in a really crappy position. They already voted for the same bill Mitch is now refusing to hold a second vote on. Nothing’s changed but Trump’s temper tantrum so to not hold to the vote is to adhere to Trump’s backside as it gets stinkier but to demand the vote is to be a craven, Dem-loving coward.

    Rural America needs the federal government to live. They don’t like admitting it but if private business was keeping it afloat, it wouldn’t be the broke-ass sob story it puts forth. Living in a small, rural town would be a sign of wealth, not lower social-economic status. It would be in demand, not suffering brain drain. The government is often the only employer of note or source of income for many. The longer this shutdown goes on, the more Repub voters are hurting and hurting bad.

    Defection is when, not if. They’d be fools to think otherwise.

  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    The Obama / Trump effect:

    Americans’ assessment of their political ideology was unchanged in 2018 compared with the year prior when 35% on average described themselves as conservative, 35% as moderate and 26% as liberal. Although conservatives continue to outnumber liberals, the gap in conservatives’ favor has narrowed from 19 percentage points in Gallup’s 1992 baseline measurement to nine points each of the past two years.
    Since 1992, the percentage of Americans identifying as liberal has risen from 17% then to 26% today. This has been mostly offset by a shrinking percentage of moderates, from 43% to 35%. Meanwhile, from 1993 to 2016 the percentage conservative was consistently between 36% and 40%, before dipping to 35% in 2017 and holding at that level in 2018.


  12. Liberal Capitalist says:

    BTW… I’m watching Jared Polis being sworn in a Colorado Governor.

    That’s a Dem Gov, Dem house and Dem Senate for Colorado. Colorado is BLUE

    If I was Cory Gardner, I would be VERY concerned. Or switch parties.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    I can only think of one time in eight years when the broadcast networks declined a request for primetime coverage.

    Indeed, for the very same subject that President Pissy Pants wants to talk about tonight…

    When plans for the speech were announced on Monday evening, I opined on Twitter that it would be better for the major broadcasts not to carry the speech. There would have been crystal-clear precedent for their turning him down: In 2014, when Barack Obama gave a speech on his immigration-policy plans, neither CBS nor NBC nor ABC aired it live, on the argument that circumstances made the message “too political.” A closer parallel would be hard to find.

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Resistance Ron:

    Real America outside DC. That place Democrats haven’t cared about in years.

    You’re talking about all the places Dems picked up House Seats?

    Moderators…is J-enos back?

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @Resistance Ron: And yet people associated with the Democratic Party are the only ones trying to secure funding for rural American health insurance and medical care.

  16. Scott F. says:

    Because nothing says caring about Real America like a massive tax cut for the 1%ers and the deregulation of Pharma, Finance and Extraction industries. You know, the sum total of Republican accomplishment with full government control over the past 2+ years.

  17. Kathy says:

    Think about this matter in market terms:

    The American people all pay federal taxes, directly or indirectly, in order to fund the government. The government is not working fully at the moment. Either the government should resume full function, or it should refund the proportion of the budget yet to be approved back to the tax payers, prorated by the amount, direct or indirect, which each has contributed (good luck figuring that one out).

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott F.: It tells a lot about the Trump states that they see themselves as Real Americans, while those on the coast or in the big cities are not. 40% of the population live on the coasts. 50% if you count the Great Lakes. Half the population lives in 9 states and even the two Trump states in the mix are turning more blue (Texas and Georgia). The truth is that, because of the poor choices they have made, the Trumpers mostly live in failed states with poor infrastructure, bad health care and bad schools (except for their football teams!) despite taking out substantially more from the federal coffer than they put in. Those people they feel aren’t real Americans? Yeah, those are the ones subsidizing their roads and schools and health care and electricity and, above all, their damn water.

    They are my fellow Americans, bless their hearts, but I sure wish they wouldn’t keep telling everyone they despise me while their hand is in my pocket.

  19. KM says:

    I reply to that nonsense that it’s like being a Christian – if you have to tell people you are a “real” one, they clearly can’t discern that on their own from your atrocious behavior. By their fruits ye shall know them, indeed.

  20. Scott F. says:


    That there are a large number of my fellow Americans who don’t know (and don’t care to learn about) just how government works and how federal funds are allocated is something that bothers me less than the fact there is a smaller number of my fellow Americans who do know these things, but they bury that knowledge under mountains of lies, false victimization, and scare tactics in order to manipulate and exploit those under-informed. It would be a lot easier to bring everyone along to a better outcome if the well-funded, self-serving later group wasn’t feeding BS 24/7 to the former.

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Don’t know if you’ve seen it but the attorneys in the Manafort sentencing messed up on their redaction’s in a court filing, and so it has been exposed that one of the things he lied to Mueller about was passing campaign polling data to Kilimnik, and also discussing a Ukrainian Peace plan.
    Now, Manafort does not deny this happened…he’s only claiming that he didn’t lie about it.
    So Collusion…conspiracy…has, essentially, been admitted to.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Resistance Ron:

    Real America urban, rural, everywhere. That place Democrats have cared about all along.

    FTFY, You’ll get your bill… Oh who in the fuck am I kidding? You can’t fix stupid. No charge. You’re still broken.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:


    40% of the population live on the coasts. 50% if you count the Great Lakes. Half the population lives in 9 states

    Can you explain this math? We have 22 coastal states, (from Alaska to CA on the west coast, TX to Florida on the S and Fl to Maine on the east coast)6 more if you count the great lakes states (not Pennsylvania of NY as the already border the Atlantic)

    It is just that I would expect a lot more than 50% of the population in all those states.

    ETA: Coastal states: AK, WA, OR, CA, TX, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, ME. Great Lakes states: MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH

  24. Kathy says:


    Of course they fear defections. Trump put the GOP, especially those in the Senate, in a really crappy position.

    Since the GOP held majorities in the House and Senate, as well as the tie-braking vote in the latter, between January 20th 2017 until January 2nd 2018, and didn’t approve all the billions for the Vanity Wall, one is tempted to think they don’t want a wall. Oh, they voted some funds for it, but nowhere near the $25+ billions (before cost overruns and eminent domain litigation) El Cheeto wants.

    They also clearly don’t want to say no to Trump, or to his base.

    Look, in a democracy you have to take the popular will and public opinion into account. but the fact is the vast majority of the people have only a shallow notion, when they have a notion at all, of what policy consists of. The people who post here are more knowledgeable, but not as knowledgeable as experts in the field. Speaking for myself, I can say I get the gist of politics, no more than that.

    Leadership in a democracy means persuading the people, or enough of them, to go along with your policy and to support it. El Cheeto just thought of it, seeing as only a part of his base is besotted with the wall, not to mention a lower level of besottment among the rest of the population.

    The big problem with Trump is he’s governing for his base, not for the country. Clinton had the same problem earlier in his first term, which got him a whooping midterm loss in Congress. But then he tacked to a more centrist position. Had he stayed the course, he might have lost against Dole in 96.

  25. Moosebreath says:


    “(not Pennsylvania of NY as the already border the Atlantic)”

    Pennsylvania does not border the Atlantic. New Jersey is in the way.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Moosebreath: Is not Philadelphia a blue water port? Could’a swore they take in ocean going vessels.

    ETA vessels=freighters

    ETA2 I admit it’s a bit messy (the definition) but if an international port exists, it’s hard to say it’s not a “coastal state” which is what I think MM is driving at (mind you, I’ve never been to Philly so I’m speaking of what I thought I’ve heard/read)

  27. Kathy says:


    I’d classify Philadelphia as a river port, with a river that offers access to the ocean. A lot like Quebec City and the St. Lawrence river.

    Philly even has a shipyard, which according to Wikipedia was used by the Navy until 1995.

  28. Moosebreath says:


    “I’d classify Philadelphia as a river port, with a river that offers access to the ocean. A lot like Quebec City and the St. Lawrence river.”

    Exactly. The water at Philadelphia’s docks is fresh, not salt. And they need to dredge the Delaware River every generation or so to keep it deep enough for ocean-going vessels.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @Moosebreath: I wouldn’t think PA would be considered coastal but couldn’t find the map again to check. If someone is really curious I’ll dig through my browser history.

  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Okay, here’s the boring math: of the 10 largest population states, 8 are coastal, and 2 are Great Lakes states. The total population of the 10 largest states totals 50.31321%. The next 5 add almost 10% to the total (59.93321%) but also add our first non-coastal, non-GL state (Arizona). If I were going to take a wild stab at the total all 28 coastal/GL states would comprise about 70-75% of the total population, but I’m doing this on a calculator and don’t have the facility to make 2 separate groupings. Source:

    ETA: My calculations accept PA as a COASTAL state, but from consulting the map, I think it counts as a GL State because in borders Lake Erie, but not the Atlantic Ocean.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: OK, here’s the link to the map. It turns out they went by counties within a certain distance of the coast, not by entire states.

  32. Moosebreath says:


    That’s a very strange map for counting coastal counties if it considers Schuylkill County, PA to be coastal. It’s a mountainous area, complete with coal mines.

  33. Mister Bluster says:

    I am listening to Pud on the radio.
    It sounds like he is gasping heavily for each breath between phrases.

  34. gVOR08 says:

    I’m reminded of an old bit of trivia. Decades ago a Chicago yacht club put up an Americas Cup entry. The rules said the sponsoring club had to be located on “an arm of the sea”. The organizers wanted the Chicago boat, so they ruled that by virtue of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, Lake Michigan was an arm of the sea.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Mister Bluster: He’s always sniffing. It’s one of the things that fuel speculation about drug use.

  36. Teve says:

    @Moosebreath: stupid people with shitty values

  37. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I wonder if…sniff…Doug is…sniff…working on a…sniff…post about last nights…sniff…Presidential…sniff…speech? Sniff.
    Can someone pass me that pile of ground-up Adderall?

  38. James Pearce says:

    And late Monday, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate released a joint statement demanding equal television time.

    Chuck and Nancy are completely outmatched on this. Did they get their equal time? Did it help them?

    Our only hope remains compromise.

  39. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:

    Our only hope remains compromise.

    James, you realize that the only reason Senate Republicans are cracking is because Pelosi and Schumer have held strong on this issue and not given into Trump’s demands?


    Because Murkowski is essentially endorsing the Democrat’s plan (which was the joint plan previous to Trump blowing it up) of stop gap funding and negotiation on funding.

  40. James Pearce says:


    James, you realize that the only reason Senate Republicans are cracking is because Pelosi and Schumer have held strong on this issue and not given into Trump’s demands?

    The Dems’ Plan A was to shut down the government to demonstrate that Trump doesn’t have the votes for his wall.

    Senate Republicans aren’t cracking. They’re working on Plan B.

  41. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    The Dems’ Plan A was to shut down the government to demonstrate that Trump doesn’t have the votes for his wall.

    100% horsesh.t.

  42. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: you know, you remind me of a deranged mother finding excuses for her serial-killer son.

    Is there anything that Trump could do that you wouldn’t immediately drop to your knees and kiss his rosy-ass posterior on?

    I haven’t seen anything yet….

  43. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    100% horsesh.t.

    You say that like this wasn’t on TV.

    @grumpy realist: I disapprove of Trump so much that I disapprove of the weak-ass opposition that allows him to get whatever he wants.

  44. An Interested Party says:

    The Dems’ Plan A was to shut down the government to demonstrate that Trump doesn’t have the votes for his wall.

    I disapprove of Trump so much that I disapprove of the weak-ass opposition that allows him to get whatever he wants.

    Ohhhh, so you are part of the minority of people who think that Nancy and Chuck are responsible for the shutdown…and that they are going to give President Pissy Pants his wall? Uh huh…

  45. An Interested Party says:

    You say that like this wasn’t on TV.

    You do realize that at the end of that video President Pissy Pants takes full responsibility for shutting down the government…

  46. An Interested Party says:

    Waiting for the ban in 3….2…

    Well, you’ve been banned before, so you know the drill…