As government shutdown begins, so does finger-pointing
ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The federal government officially shut down Saturday on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president.
Congress is to reconvene to try again to broker an agreement to fund the government. But as soon as it became clear Friday night that no deal would be reached before midnight, finger-pointing began.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters early Saturday that the blame lay with Democrats.
“It’s disappointing to every American that Democrats would shut down the national government,” Pence said from aboard Air Force Two as he was about to take off for a trip to Cairo.
The White House also pointed at Democrats.
“Senate Democrats own the ‘Schumer Shutdown’,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement early Saturday morning. “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”
And on Saturday at 6:17 a.m., the president posted his first tweet since the shutdown, writing, “Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border. They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead. #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18 in order to power through mess!”
A subsequent tweet read, “This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present. #DemocratShutdown.”
Schumer meanwhile noted that Republicans hold the reins in both houses of Congress and the White House.
“Every American knows the Republican Party controls the White House, the Senate, the House. It’s their job to keep the government open,” the Democratic senator said. “There is no one — no one — who deserves the blame for the position we find ourselves in more than President Trump.”
Schumer also repeatedly called the shutdown the “Trump shutdown.” The term began trending on social media.
The Senate minority leader said he believed he was close to striking a deal when he met with Trump earlier on Friday after “reluctantly” agreeing to fund a border wall in exchange for protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients.
“President Trump, if you are listening, I am urging you: Please take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Schumer said.
“It’s almost as if you were rooting for a shutdown,” he said. “Republican leadership can’t get to ‘yes’ because President Trump refuses to.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also said Trump deserved much of the blame.
“President Trump earned an ‘F’ for failure in leadership,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of House and Senate Democrats’ unity in insisting on a budget that supports our military and the domestic investments that keep our nation strong, and that honors our values by protecting the DREAMers.”
In a surprise move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will put up for a vote a short-term funding measure to keep the government running through Feb. 8, a compromise path that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had been pushing earlier in the evening. McConnell said the Senate will reconvene Saturday at noon.
The House is to return to duty Saturday morning.
It was a night of frantic behind-closed-doors negotiations as lawmakers held out hope for a bipartisan solution.
Late into the night, senators were still discussing a shorter plan to fund the government as the deadline drew ever closer — at one point, Schumer walked off the floor with McConnell, chatting on the sidelines — but no clear plan emerged.
As the clock approached midnight, Graham huddled with GOP leaders before joining Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in a discussion with Schumer and other Senate Democrats.
Senators continued to gather in tight groups on the Senate floor as Republican leaders held the vote open past midnight, locked in discussion as government funding lapsed.
The vote was finally closed at 12:16 a.m., with the continuing resolution failing to advance.
Earlier in the evening, Sen. Graham floated the possibility of a three-week extension through Feb. 8. He was spotted shuffling between McConnell and Schumer’s offices acting as a go-between.
The procedural vote that was held open could have happened hours earlier, but McConnell opted to force this late-night vote, upping the pressure on Democrats.
Democrats stood firm, opposing the bill over their demands that it include protections for Dreamers, who are poised to lose their legal protections come March 5.
Five Democrats have voted with Republicans to fund the government — four of them facing tough re-election battles in the coming months in states Trump handily won in the 2016 election. Those lawmakers include Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and “Heidi” Heitkamp of North Dakota. Newly elected Alabama Sen. Doug Jones also voted with that group; he is up for re-election in 2020.
Four Republicans have voted down the measure, either because of their DACA concerns or military funding. Those senators include Graham of South Carolina, Flake of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
Despite the apparent lack of a deal to avoid a shutdown, the mood was slightly more optimistic on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue earlier on Friday evening, with negotiators hopeful that a deal would come together — if not by midnight — then sometime this weekend before nearly a million federal workers head back to work on Monday.
Lawmakers working toward a fix
Missing Friday’s midnight deadline triggered a technical shutdown, but not one with significant immediate impact since most federal offices are closed over the weekend.
“I think there’s a deal in the next 24 hours,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget director, said on CNN earlier Friday evening.
“There’s a really good chance it gets fixed” before government offices open on Monday, he later told reporters in an impromptu, off-camera gaggle at the White House.
President Trump, who canceled a planned trip to Florida on Friday, engaged with lawmakers by phone and Twitter.
When asked if Trump might go to Florida on Saturday, Mulvaney said “he’s not leaving until this is finished.”
Agencies prepped for a shutdown
Earlier in the day, Mulvaney sent a memo to the heads of federal departments and agencies with guidance to review their contingency plans and be prepared to furlough non-essential employees.
“This guidance reminds agencies of their responsibilities to plan for agency operations under such a contingency. At this time, agencies should be reviewing their plans for operations in the absence of appropriations,” Mulvaney said in the memo.
The Office of Management and Budget has been working with agencies for the last week to make sure they prepared to enact their contingency plans if government funding lapsed, administration officials said.
“You’re seeing across-the-board efforts by the administration and each of the agencies to minimize the impact of the shutdown on the American people,” one White House official said on a conference call with reporters.
Agencies have been encouraged to use “carryover balances” at their disposal to continue operations as normal for as long as possible.
If lawmakers don’t show progress toward a resolution soon, some federal employees will begin to receive furlough notices as soon as Saturday, though administration officials could not offer an overall number.
The military’s ongoing military operations will not be impacted, though nearly 1.3 million active-duty service members would not be paid until after the shutdown ends.
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