No End In Sight For Government Shutdown

Congress will not be returning to Washington until some time next week. Thus guaranteeing that this shutdown will last at least through January 3rd.

Originally, there was at least some plan that Congress would return to Washington at the end of this week in one last effort to resolve the government shutdown before the end of the year, but any hope of that happening appears to have evaporated:

Washington Thursday all but gave up on resolving the partial government shutdown before the New Year, as lawmakers were told not to expect votes this week and signs of negotiations were nonexistent.

On Capitol Hill, the hallways were quiet and leadership offices were shuttered. At the White House, President Trump retreated from public view and tweeted recriminations at Democrats.

Behind the scenes, Democratic aides were working to draft legislation to reopen the government once they take over the House on Jan. 3.

It was day 6 of the third partial government shutdown of the year, and it will become the second-longest of the decade when Congress convenes next week to open its 116th session in a new divided Washington.

The standoff over Trump’s demands for funding for his border wall left some 25 percent of the government without funding and hundreds of thousands of government workers stranded at home, facing the possibility that they will miss paychecks if the situation continues.

Trump on Thursday blamed Democratic “OBSTRUCTION of the desperately needed Wall.” House Democrats announced in a press release that, “It’s day 6 of the Trump shutdown, and the impact of the shutdown is becoming more apparent.”

The House and Senate were expected to convene briefly in pro forma sessions in the afternoon, before gaveling out for the remainder of the week.

About 25 percent of the federal government has been shut down since Saturday, with roughly 800,000 workers affected, including an estimated 350,000 who are on furlough at home without pay. At the heart of the stalemate is Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for his proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Congressional Democrats have rejected that figure and made counteroffers for border security of as much as $1.6 billion.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Democrats’ likely plan is to put a bill that funds the government, without money for Trump’s wall, on the floor on Jan. 3. That is the first day of the new session of Congress, when Democrats take control of the House.

The legislation would likely extend government funding through Feb. 8, mirroring a bipartisan bill the Senate passed last week before Trump withdrew his support, starting the chain of events that ended in the shutdown. The Senate would have to repass that legislation in January, as it will be before a new Congress.

The New York Times is similarly pessimistic, as is  Politico, which reports that Congress appears to be giving up on any hope that the shutdown will be ended before the current Congress ends:

The 115th Congress essentially gave up on trying to reopen the government on Thursday, with both the Senate and House closing out the session just minutes after opening it, and leaving the political crisis for the next Congress to solve.

The House session ended in a bout of shouting as Democrats tried to get the chamber to pass a bill funding the government — but not President Donald Trump’s border wall. The Senate session consisted of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) setting up next week’s schedule and asking an empty room whether anyone objected. And the White House, for its part, blasted out a new statement attacking Democrats over their opposition to the border wall.

The effort seemed to reflect a lack of enthusiasm among members to end an almost week-long shutdown affecting a quarter of the government, with not even congressional leaders nor the party faithful trying to pin the blame on the other side.

The impasse seems almost certain to continue until Jan. 3, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ascends to the role of speaker under a new Democratic majority. Until then, Republicans have only a slim hope that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) can consummate a deal with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, with negotiations going almost totally silent.

“We have not been able to reach agreement,” said Roberts, the only senator in town on Thursday as well as on Christmas Eve. “I hope that we can come up with something that can get this solved. That resides squarely with my good friend Chuck Schumer and the leadership here to present the president with a number he can agree with.”

Party leaders are now gaming out how the new Democratic House will react to the shutdown and there are increasing worries that the funding lapse will persist for weeks, potentially deep into January. On MSNBC, outgoing Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) said plainly: “I don’t see a scenario where the government opens back up until a new Congress is sworn in.”

In theory, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could call Congress into session before Pelosi takes over. But those hopes have just about run out, so some lawmakers are taking things into their own hands.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the incoming House Rules Committee Chairman, tried to bring up a bill reopening the government on the House floor Thursday afternoon. But Republicans gaveled the Massachusetts Democrat down as he yelled to an empty gallery, “Mr. speaker 800,000 federal employees don’t know whether they will get paid! Mr. Speaker!”

“Vital departments of our government are in limbo because of this manufactured government, and I couldn’t even get recognized!” McGovern said afterwards. He later added: “The American people understand that this is an urgent matter, the only people who don’t seem to be in any hurry are the Republican leadership and the president. It’s just ridiculous.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said: “Democrats will act swiftly to end the Trump Shutdown” after taking over the House. He added that they will not support Trump’s “immoral, ineffective and expensive wall.”

Hammill’s statement followed a stern statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who dinged Democrats for not returning Pence’s offers that would have included roughly more money for fencing than the Democrats’ $1.3 billion stance.

“The only rational conclusion is that the Democrat party is openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people. The president does not want the government to remain shut down, but he will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritize our county’s safety and security,” Sanders said.

According to other reports, members of both the House and the Senate were told that there is no need to return to Washington before next week since there is presently no prospect that a deal will be made that would result in legislation that can be voted on before New Year’s Eve at the earliest, and it’s not clear that there will be anything then either. This means that in all likelihood it will be up to the new Congress that takes office next Thursday to resolve the shutdown. That Congress, of course, will include both a slightly larger, and arguably more conservative Republican caucus in the Senate and a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats under the leadership of likely Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. As noted, Pelosi has already made it clear that, after the usual organizational votes that accompany a new session of Congress, the first substantive vote would be to adopt the measure that the Senate passed roughly a week ago which funded the government through early February but did not provide for border wall funding, a bill that passed the Senate essentially uncontested originally. At that point, it will be up to the Senate and the President to decide how to proceed, and the fact that this same bill already passed the Senate will make it hard for Republicans to avoid putting the bill back on the floor for a vote. If that bill passes the Senate, then the question will be whether the President accepts it or whether he vetoes it over the lack of funding for his wall and thus extends the shutdown beyond late next week.

This seemingly guarantees that the current shutdown will extend into at least twelve or thirteen days before it is resolved, with the prospect that it could last much longer than that. At this point, whether or not, and how, it ends, is entirely up to the President of the United States. It is because of his insistence on the construction of a border wall, something that is opposed by the majority of the American public, that we are at where we find ourselves today. As the Senate demonstrated before Christmas, a bill that would fund the government at least through the beginning of February, and it’s obvious that such a bill would pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and would probably pass the current Republican-controlled House if leadership would allow it to come to the floor, which is not going to happen at this point absent some last-minute move that seems increasingly unlikely. All of this will be for naught, though, if the President continues to persist in his demand for border wall funding. If that’s how this proceeds going forward, then it’s easy to see how this shutdown could end up exceeding the length of the October 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days, or even the shutdown of 1995-1996, which lasted 21 days. At this point, it’s all up to the President of the United States.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, 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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At this point, it’s all up to the President of the United States.

    Which, being the center of attention, is just the way he likes it.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    At this point, it’s all up to the President of the United States.

    It’s up to the underlying material conditions. Idealistic justifications are a product of those relationships, not their genesis.

  3. Kathy says:

    At this point, it’s all up to the President of the United States.

    If only you had a president, rather than a man-child pretending to be one.

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    If only you had a president, rather than a man-child pretending to be one.

    This is a hyperbolic and deeply biased desctiption that accomplishes nothing but to stop thought. “It’s all because man-child” is for a person who wants to head off inquiry, just as Steve Taylor’s “They want a wall cuz ther stoopid” nonsense is for someone who wants to simplify something so it can be ignored.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    This is a hyperbolic and deeply biased desctiption

    It also happens to be accurate.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Ben Wolf: It’s a friggin blog comment, not a Master’s thesis. A degree of snark and simplification is inherent in the medium. You want deep thought, contribute some.

  7. Teve says:

    Forty-seven percent of adults hold Trump responsible, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress, according to the Dec. 21-25 poll, conducted mostly after the shutdown began. Seven percent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans.

    Behold, the power of tribalism. Trump goes on national television and loudly proclaims that not only will he shut down the government but that he would “proudly” do it, that he will accept the responsibility of it and would not blame the Democrats for it — and his followers still blame someone other than him. You simply cannot reason with that. Reality is irrelevant, facts are irrelevant, his own statements are irrelevant. This is serious self-delusion, the kind that cannot be penetrated. And it is making it impossible to govern the country.

    -dispatches from the culture wars

  8. Joe says:

    Does there not come a day when those “essential” but unpaid federal employees start to leave for jobs that will help them pay their mortgages. I understand they are likely to receive back pay, but a lot of people don’t have that kind of rainy day money lying around.

  9. Ben Wolf says:


    It’s a friggin blog comment, not a Master’s thesis.

    “I’m foolish because those around me are foolish.” Doesn’t sound so good, does it?

  10. Kathy says:


    I’m guessing people addicted to the downvote simply can’t get enough of them 🙂

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf: You do know that pretensions of superiority while swimming in the swamp is not an endearing look, don’t you?

  12. mattbernius says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    It’s up to the underlying material conditions. Idealistic justifications are a product of those relationships, not their genesis.

    Meh. There is a lot of about this present situation that demonstrates the limits of orthodox structuralism. Your analysis, such that it is, seems to be completely dismissive of the (unpredictable) agentive power of actors within the structure. It might work, to some degree, to present a theory of how we got here, but it’s limited (especially in its inability to account for specific actor’s actions within the system).

    Yes, Trump’s ascent and the underlying conflicts that led us to this moment were greatly aided by structural forces. But in micro-interactions, and specific moments, the individual’s decisions play a critical role in this (both in terms of how they create new structuring structures and in specific actions they took). Resolving this shutdown relies heavily at this point on an unpredictable President of the United States. Pretending that Trump, as in individual actor, is not something to be considered is bad social analysis.

    BTW, I highly recommend Marshall Sahlin’s work “Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa” where he works to find the balance between Marxist structural analysis (what he’s known for) and individual agency (which he has to admit is critical within the moment).

  13. MarkedMan says:

    OK, you want underlying causes? Here’s an important one. Since Reagan, the winning stance for Republicans has been to denigrate governance itself. At first, this was an act, but as time marched on it created more and more actual Republican candidates for office who, bizarrely, thought governance was a waste of time. The penultimate act in this inevitable catastrophe was the Tea Party movement and the election of a large number of legislators that had no experience or desire to legislate, but rather wanted to tell off the libs, ban abortion and protect the confederate flag. The culmination of this movement was, of course, Trump himself.

    So we found ourselves in 2018 with Republican control of all three branches of government (executive, both houses of congress and the Supreme Court). Yet they could not even pass a budget, literally the most basic of the governmental duties. For decades they had talked about the magnificent social and economic changes they would visit upon the nation if they had this power and… nothing. They don’t have the experience, intellect or will to actually craft legislation. And if they did, they have imposed a bizarre and self defeating metric on themselves that they will not pass anything unless it can pass with only Republican votes. Since they lack a super majority in the Senate and the filibuster remains, they craft legislation that comprises of a bunch of disparate nonsense mainly intended to stick the finger in the eye of the Democrats and therefore can get a yes from the most extremist Republicans in the House, but of course that causes it to fail in the Senate. On occasion an alternate scenario plays out in the Republican Senate wherein they pass a limited bill that manages to coax enough Democratic votes to counterbalance the Senate Republican extremist defections and therefore eke out a supermajority win there. Only to see their House colleagues either fail to take it up at all, or load it down with such toxic BS they will never get it through reconciliation.

    Bottom line, the underlying cause of this mess is the Republican’s contempt for actual governance which has resulted in them being unable to govern. Proof of this is that for three months they had a lame duck stranglehold on the government and enacted nothing. Not even the most basic task they are charged with, a budget.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    No, no, it’s all the forces of history, individual actions are irrelevant.

    For example, Hitler hating Jews had no effect, it was ‘material conditions’ that caused the Holocaust. What material conditions? Um… Let’s see, oppressed workers + airplanes = Kill the Jews! It’s pretty obvious once you see it. Some Austrian lunatic’s irrational hatred was irrelevant.

    Or there’s Einstein who moved to the US in 1933 in response to said anti-semitism and thus effectively relocated physics to the US ensuring that we’d get the bomb and be able to exterminate Hiroshima and Nagasaki and reign as supreme power on earth up to the present day. Illusion! That whole thing of Einstein deciding, ‘fck it, I’m outta here,’ had no effect on history. It was all the ‘material conditions.’

    Genghis? Irrelevant. Alexander and Julius and Cyrus and Peter the Great, none of them actually did anything to affect history, it was all forces. Material forces. Pasteur, Salk, Watson and Crick: irrelevant. The Curies, Tesla, Berners-Lee, who cares? Forces! Impersonal material forces formed by other material forces which were in turn created by preceding material forces and really, why do we even bother having humans at all?

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    It’s up to the underlying material conditions.

    For President Pud that would be how many women he has grabbed by the pussy and how many porn stars he has screwed to commit adultery!

  16. KM says:

    @Ben Wolf :
    This was a done deal with Trump on board…. until the conservative media basically called him a pussy for not fighting to the death for his Wall. Everyone in Congress was good, the President stated he was good but nooooo, his groupies called him a loser and implied he’s not hot shit after all so he yanked the rug out at that last second. What kind of adult caves to basically being called a chicken and makes bad life decisions based on what some random idiot on TV peer pressures him into? An immature one, to say the least.

    Trump just pulled a Marty McFly on the nation so YES, he’s a damn man-child. If he can be goaded into shutting down the government by FOX News, then he’s not reasonable or adult in any fashion. “Bwak bwak CHICKEN!!” is no basis for governing decisions!

  17. Gustopher says:

    I would like to applaud the Republican Congress for their work here. It’s a fitting end to Paul Ryan’s speakership.

  18. Kylopod says:


    Trump just pulled a Marty McFly on the nation

    …yet another comparison between Trump and a fictional character. Before long the list’ll be longer than the number of lies he’s told. (Or not.)

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: That’d be a pretty long list. Are we sure there are enough fictional characters available to make that long a list?