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.