Government Shutdown Set To Last Until At Least After Christmas

There was no progress on resolving the government shutdown today, and little hope that anything will happen before late next week.

Senators and negotiators from the White House returned to work today to try to hammer out a deal to end the shutdown that began at midnight, but the sides are so far apart that it’s apparent that the shutdown will last until at least late next week:

WASHINGTON — The partial government shutdown that began early Saturday will continue for the next several days, as Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, adjourned the Senate until Thursday and the White House indicated that President Trump was sticking to his demand for $5 billion for a border wall.

In a call with reporters, administration officials indicated that the president would not relent on his signature campaign promise, saying that the only way out of the impasse was for Senate Democrats to do something they have promised never to do — grant him the $5 billion for border security.

But even as the White House officials spoke, Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol presenting an offer to the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, according to Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He offered no details about the proposal, and said it would be difficult to reach any deal on Saturday.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat, suggested in an interview that if an agreement was not struck by the close of the weekend, lawmakers and staff members in her chamber should also go home for the Christmas holiday. “I really do think that if it doesn’t happen today or tomorrow, then people should just be with their families and relax,” she said, adding, “We have certainty we will end this the first week in January,” when Democrats assume control of the House.

Large sections of the federal government closed at 12:01 a.m. Saturday in the third shutdown of President Trump’s 23 months in office. It was an ignominious end to a year that began much the same way, with a three-day government shutdown in January.

The latest breakdown, which hinges almost entirely on the impulses of a mercurial president, only added to the sense that, as Senator Claire McCaskill, the departing Democrat from Missouri, said in her recent farewell speech, “something is broken, and if we don’t have the strength to look in the mirror and fix it, the American people are going to grow more and more cynical.”

With Senate Democrats saying they will never accede to Mr. Trump’s insistence on the $5 billion for his wall, and the White House offering no indication that the president will accept less, nine of the federal government’s 15 cabinet-level departments have officially shuttered. They include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security and the Interior; other agencies, like the Defense Department, are unaffected because Congress had already approved their spending.

Roughly 380,000 workers were expected to be sent home, and another 420,000 considered too essential to be furloughed — including airport security officials and Customs and Border Patrol officers — were to remain on the job without pay. National parks generally planned to remain open, though with reduced services in some cases and without the presence of rangers to assist visitors.

The shutdown’s effects will become more pronounced on Wednesday, when workers had been scheduled to return after the holiday.

After remaining publicly silent on the shutdown through much of Saturday morning, Mr. Trump took to Twitter a little before noon to say that he was “in the White House, working hard.”

“We are negotiating with the Democrats on desperately needed Border Security (Gangs, Drugs, Human Trafficking & more) but it could be a long stay,” he wrote, not specifically mentioning his much-promised wall.

The president delayed his planned 16-day vacation to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, where he had intended to interview a host of possible candidates for cabinet secretary positions.

While administration officials were negotiating with Senate Democrats, Mr. Trump hosted a Republicans-only lunch at the White House; the guests included Mr. Shelby and several leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, die-hard Trump supporters who have been leading the push for wall funding and encouraging the president to demand it.

In the Capitol, the Senate was officially in session until Saturday afternoon, but mostly quiet. The two Senate leaders — Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schumer — gave dueling speeches on the Senate floor, with Mr. McConnell pointing the finger at Democrats and Mr. Schumer pointing the finger at Mr. Trump.

“They brought this about because they’re under a lot of pressure — we all know this — from their far left and feel compelled to disagree with the president,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to Democrats. He said Republicans have “pushed the pause button until the president, from whom we will need a signature, and Senate Democrats, from whom we will need votes, reach agreement.”

Mr. Schumer, meanwhile, said the shutdown had occurred “because of one person and one person alone — President Trump. We arrived at this moment because the president has been on a destructive two-week temper tantrum demanding the American taxpayer pony up for an expensive, ineffective border wall that the president promised Mexico would pay for.”

(…)

At the same time, in Washington, the blame game was well underway. With Democrats set to take over the House in January, their leaders wasted little time in reminding the nation that Republicans are, for now at least, still running the show.

“Regrettably, America has now entered a Trump Shutdown,” Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said in a joint statement issued late Friday.

“Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House,” the statement said. “But instead of honoring his responsibility to the American people, President Trump threw a temper tantrum and convinced House Republicans to push our nation into a destructive Trump Shutdown.”

At the same time, in Washington, the blame game was well underway. With Democrats set to take over the House in January, their leaders wasted little time in reminding the nation that Republicans are, for now at least, still running the show.

“Regrettably, America has now entered a Trump Shutdown,” Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said in a joint statement issued late Friday.

“Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House,” the statement said. “But instead of honoring his responsibility to the American people, President Trump threw a temper tantrum and convinced House Republicans to push our nation into a destructive Trump Shutdown.”

The Washington Post and Politico have their own recaps of what was basically a day of absolutely no progress and a lot of political posturing, but those takes are basically the same as the summary provided in the above excerpt from The New York Times. With the Senate adjourning today shortly after 4:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon, it’s clear that nothing will be happening until at least next Thursday. As things stand, the Senate will gavel back into session on Monday, but right now that is planned on only being a pro forma sesssion, meaning that there are no plans for business to be conducted on that day. After that, the Senate isn’t isn’t scheduled to be back until Thursday, December 27th, and there’s every possibility that this too could end up being a pro forma session if it turns out that there isn’t any kind of a deal for Senators to consider and vote on. If that happens, then all likelihood is that we won’t see any action at all before the end of the year and, most likely before January 3rd when the new Congress is set to convene and the Democrats are set to take control of the House.

As for the terms of any deal that might be struck, the latest proposal that appears to be circulating on Capitol Hill included a proposal that would allocate anywhere from $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion for “border security,” but apparently not specifically for the President’s border wall. Democrats, on the other hand, have offered at various times either $1.3 billion or $1.6 billion for “border security” that would include fencing, but would not permit funding for a wall. Part of the problem, though, is that Republicans seem entirely unsure where the President actually stands and what he would actually accept beyond the $5 billion that was included in the bill that the House voted on earlier this week. Without this guidance, it’s virtually impossible for any negotiations to take place. The President is being represented in the current negotiations by Vice-President Pence and incoming Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, but it’s not clear that even they are able to speak for the President directly. Given all of that, the odds that negotiations over the coming days will accomplish anything of substance seem pretty low.

So, absent some kind of unlikely breakthrough this shutdown looks set to last until at least December 27th and probably well beyond that. All because the President wants funding for a wall that will never be built, which will be effectively dead as an issue once Democrats take control of the House in just under two weeks, and which Mexico will never pay for. What a completely ridiculous waste of time.

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. An Interested Party says:

    All because the President wants funding for a wall that will never be built, which will be effectively dead as an issue once Democrats take control of the House in just under two weeks, and which Mexico will never pay for. What a completely ridiculous waste of time.

    And yet, millions of Americans voted for this clown and millions still support him…I mean, I realize tribalism is strong, but really…

  2. Teve says:

    It’s almost like they just want a symbolic act of racism, to keep supporting him…

    3
  3. Kylopod says:

    The only question is when, not if, he declares victory with his tail between his legs.

    4
  4. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: unless there is funding for a wall, he can’t declare victory. It’s too simple of a measure, and Ann Coulter is smarter than the average rube. He won’t be able to pass off maintenance funding for existing physical barriers or something.

    I think the questions now are:
    – what is the least amount of funding needed to declare victory?
    – what will he be willing to give the Democrats for that?

    I’m guessing $1.3B, as being big enough to seem substantial, and get a few miles of new construction for photo ops. But, I don’t see what he can offer. He rejected a DACA fix for $25B.

    I expect a long shutdown, as he slowly learns the limits of the Presidency.

    2
  5. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    unless there is funding for a wall, he can’t declare victory.

    Sure he can. It’s very simple: all he has to do is say “I won the shutdown fight.” He’ll have to come up with a rationalization so absurdly detached from reality that even many of his supporters won’t buy it. But that’s not going to stop him in the event that the Dems give him nothing and he folds, which is very likely unless they offer the Dems something significant. Because Donald Trump is literally, absolutely, pathologically incapable of ever admitting defeat about anything, ever. If you beat him in a game of chess, he’ll claim to have been the true winner. Okay, forget that example as there’s no way he’d understand the rules enough to sit through the game for 10 seconds. But if you beat him at Chutes & Ladders, he’ll claim to have won the game through his awesome genius.

    4
  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Almost?

    1
  7. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    Boxing Day is the best! America should adopt Boxing Day. You sit around in your jammies and eat X-mas leftovers in sandwich form and drink mimosas for breakfast and watch movies all day. And if you’re smart enough to bail back to your own place after X-mas Day wraps up, no relatives!

    Boxing Day is Christmas Day for introverts.

    And in the near future: New Year’s Eve sucks, but New Year’s Day rocks.

    4
  8. de stijl says:

    @One American:

    We don’t agree on anything, but I wish you a Happy Christmas surrounded by loved ones.

    And a super-chill Boxing Day.

    And a festive New Year’s Eve.

    And a reflective New Year’s Day.

    Be good. Be well. Be safe.

    4
  9. Scott O says:

    No progress on resolution of the shutdown can occur until the leadership of the GOP is back in session, by which I mean Hannity and Limbaugh. They seem to have the final say.

    1
  10. Hal_10000 says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but can’t Congress just pass the CR and over-ride his veto? Take President Infant completely out of the equation?

    3
  11. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but can’t Congress just pass the CR and over-ride his veto? Take President Infant completely out of the equation?

    Good luck finding the Republican votes willing to take on President Infant.

    1
  12. James Joyner says:

    @Hal_10000: “Congress” includes the House. They don’t have 291 votes to override a veto. Not sure if that changes January 3.

    1
  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Hal_10000:
    Yes, they could, but it would require Paul Ryan to be a vertebrate.

    3
  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: @James Joyner: @Michael Reynolds: I’d like to add that in the past, certainly, this would have happened. Those days ended in 1994–to the cheers of Republicans across the nation IIRC.

    1
  15. dazedandconfused says:

    I suspect this will follow the arc of the Big Bailout of 2008.

    The Deplorables will prance about, talking rightness and wrongness right up to the point where Wall Street tanks a butt-load of 401Ks and their constituency weighs in. Whereupon a select few, just enough and no more…and mostly from the safest districts, momentarily break ranks.

  16. Kathy says:

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested yesterday Congress should take a salary furlough during a shutdown.

    While this is largely symbolic (like 99.999999% symbolic), it’s not a bad idea. I’d take it further, and propose it apply to the president (or Trump, as the case may be), the head and deputy of all executive agencies, and the Supreme Court. I’d go further yet and make that pay furlough equal to twice the days the government was shut down; these people are in charge of governance and review, they have higher responsibilities. Then I’d pile on and make this furlough not subject to back pay, ever.

    This removes the last 9 from the figure quoted above.

    We can remove another “9” by coupling a moratorium of two years in salary increases, including cost of living increases, for all officials mentioned above, for two years for every instance of a shut down.

    Or, taking a page from the ever-useful Roman Republic, have the salaries of all furloughed federal employees, and those required to work without pay, be paid by the officials noted above out of their own pocket.

    That last might hurt.

    It’s all probably unconstitutional. Even if it’s not, it has a lower chance of ever passing, even in its mildest form, than you have of winning the lottery every day for seven million years.

  17. Tyrell says:

    @Kathy: Isn’t Cortez the one who said she is overwhelmed with all the stress and is going to have to take a break?