Major parts of the federal government begin shutting down for an indefinite closure

Express News

By Express News Desk| Updated: December 22, 2018

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Large parts of the federal government shut down overnight after President Trump torpedoed a bipartisan spending deal because it lacked the money he demanded for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Funding for numerous agencies, including those that operate parks, homeland security, law enforcement, tax collection and transportation, expired at midnight. Close to 400,000 federal workers are expected to be home without pay until a deal is reached, and numerous services will be halted in that time, with the impacts broadening the longer the funding lapse lasts.

The shutdown intensifies a standoff between Trump, who is demanding $5.7 billion for a border wall, and congressional Democrats, who have vowed to block any wall funding and have the votes to do so. It marks a deflating final chapter for Republicans as they complete two years of unified GOP control in Washington — as well as an acrimonious prelude to the upcoming era of divided government, after Democrats take the House in January.

Trump saw the final days of this year as his last chance to try to extract funding for the wall, while Democrats, united against the wall and buttressed by big wins in the midterm elections, showed no signs of buckling to his demands amid a flurry of attacks this week.

The White House and congressional leaders continued negotiations late Friday, but by 8:30 p.m., the House and the Senate had adjourned for the night. That made it impossible to vote on any spending agreement until Saturday, and it remained unclear whether any deal would materialize by then.

It is unclear how long a shutdown might last. Trump predicted earlier Friday that it could drag on for a “very long time.”

About two hours before the shutdown was set to take effect, Trump distributed a video on Twitter in which he blamed Democrats but expressed hope that the lapse in government funding would be brief.

“We’re going to have a shutdown,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes. . . . Let’s be bipartisan, and let’s get it done. The shutdown hopefully will not last long.”

The Senate on Friday considered legislation to fund the government agencies through Feb. 8 and appropriate $5.7 billion to build 215 miles of wall structures along the Mexico border.

The House passed that legislation Thursday evening, but Senate Democrats successfully unified on Friday and refused to back that measure.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that Democrats were open to talks with the White House and Republicans but would not agree to any measure that funded the construction of a new border wall.

Schumer said Friday that the Senate had unanimously agreed to a spending bill earlier in the week and accused Trump of having a “temper tantrum” because he wasn’t getting money for the wall.

“President Trump, you will not get your wall,” Schumer said. “You’re not getting your wall today, next week or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”

Democrats tried to make clear to the White House for weeks that they had the votes to block any measure that contained money for the wall.

As their power became clear to White House officials, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders signaled Tuesday that Trump was planning to withdraw his request for the funds in an effort to keep the government open.

But he received a torrent of criticism from conservative lawmakers and commentators following this decision, and he reversed course on Thursday, scuttling a temporary, bipartisan spending bill that would have extended funding through Feb. 8 but did not contain wall money.

Trump on Friday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to change long-standing Senate rules to pass the House’s measure providing $5.7 billion for the wall. McConnell refused, making it impossible for Senate Republicans to push the measure through because Democrats control 49 seats in the 100-member chamber.

“We’re going to be working very hard to get something passed in the Senate,” Trump said earlier Friday in the Oval Office. “Now it’s up to the Democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don’t, but we’ve very much prepared for a long shutdown.”

Republicans were frustrated by the reversal, and Democrats warned Friday that the president’s erratic and unvetted decisions in recent days were unsettling financial markets, foreign allies and even members of his Cabinet.

“This is tyranny of talk radio hosts, right? And so, how do you deal with that?” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn). “You have two talk radio hosts who completely flipped the president. And so, do we succumb to tyranny of talk radio hosts?”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced his resignation Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average had one of its worst weeks in recent decades and has fallen almost 4,400 points, or 16 percent, since October.

Multiple federal parks and monuments are slated to close, some as soon as Saturday morning. The Securities and Exchange Commission posted a list of the services it will soon suspend, including the processing of certain business records. The Justice Department, Commerce Department and Internal Revenue Service are preparing to send thousands of workers home without pay.

And Trump’s prediction that a shutdown would last “for a very long time” meant that hundreds of thousands of federal employees risk missing at least one paycheck. Even the Border Patrol agents and Transportation Security Administration officials who are directed to continue working during the shutdown will not be paid until Congress funds their agencies.

About 400,000 federal workers would be furloughed, according to a Washington Post projection. But a number of federal agencies, including the Pentagon, will not be directly affected, because Congress already passed multiple other spending bills this year that secured funding through September.

As the funding lapse lengthens, the negotiations will prove to be a major test for Trump, Schumer, McConnell and House conservatives as they jostle for footing in Washington’s new power structure.

Friday afternoon saw a flurry of discussions begin in the afternoon when McConnell, Democrats and Vice President Pence began huddling separately in the Capitol.

Pence separately joined Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney for a meeting with House conservatives. But the talks yielded no clear evidence of progress, and eventually Pence and his entourage left the Capitol.

“We don’t have a deal,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters after emerging from a late meeting with the vice president. “There are a lot of moving parts, and we’re trying to get them moving together.”

The construction of a wall along the border with Mexico was one of Trump’s top campaign promises in 2016, and he had promised that Mexico would finance the entire project. But since taking office, he has demanded the money from Congress.

Senate Democrats have blocked every attempt so far. Trump has also threatened to shut the government down numerous times if he doesn’t get money for the border wall, but before Friday night, he had always backed down.

In recent days, Trump has tried a number of different tactics to try to secure the money. He called on Cabinet secretaries to search their budgets for extra funds, and on Wednesday, he said the entire project would be built by the military. But by Thursday he was back to demanding that Congress provide the funding, leaving many GOP lawmakers scrambling to accede to his demands.

The shutdown followed a day of posturing and unsuccessful negotiations in the Senate on Friday.

After meeting with Trump at the White House, McConnell called a vote aimed at advancing the bill with $5.7 billion for the border wall, saying the legislation would not be considered controversial in more normal times.

“I’m proud to vote for it,” McConnell said.

But after hours of maneuvering, it was clear that the legislation would not command the support needed to pass, although the Senate advanced it on a procedural vote — with Pence breaking a tie — to keep a legislative vehicle alive in case a deal does emerge.

Trump, meanwhile, ratcheted up public pressure on Democrats to cave on the wall.

In a spate of morning Twitter posts, Trump sought to pin blame on Democrats for a potential shutdown, even though he said last week that he would accept responsibility for a shutdown.

“The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED,” Trump wrote. “If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!”

But Democrats showed no signs of relenting, and on Friday night, they continued to blame Trump and the Republicans for the partial shutdown.

“I think we ought to make it clear that it’s the president’s abrupt change in position and refusal to accept the deal he’s already told his leadership he’d accept,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.).

“Look, this is the last week we have a Republican-controlled Senate and House and White House — they’ve got to work this out.”

Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.