Government shutdown begins

Posted on: January 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The federal government has officially shut down on the one-year anniversary that Donald Trump was sworn in as president.

Senators remained huddled on the chamber floor trying to broker a short-term plan to continue government funding into next week, but no deal appeared imminent.

The White House placed the blame squarely with Democrats.

“Senate Democrats own the ‘Schumer Shutdown’,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “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.”

Senate leaders took to the floor and accused the opposing party of brinkmanship.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Democrats’ actions “cynical.”

“We’ll continue to talk because when all the games stop all the issues are still there,” he said. “Every single one of them are still there. The American people expect us to act like adults and get together to solve the problems.”

In a surprise move, 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-South Carolina, had been pushing earlier in the evening.

The vote is not expected to pass tonight, but the situation remains fluid. Over in the House, votes are officially ruled out for the night but leaders asked members to return later Saturday morning.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he “reluctantly” put the border wall on the table in exchange for protections for Dreamers. He accused Trump of rejecting the deal.

Schumer also repeatedly called the shutdown the “Trump shutdown.” The term began trending on social media.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi 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.”

It’s been a night of frantic behind closed-doors negotiations as lawmakers held out hope for a bipartisan solution.

Senators continue to huddle on the Senate floor as Republican leaders held the vote open past midnight, locked in discussion as government funding lapsed.

As the clock approached midnight, Graham huddled with GOP leaders before joining Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, in a discussion with Schumer, D-New York, and Senate Democrats.

The vote was finally closed at 12:16 AM, with the continuing resolution failing to advance.

Late into the night, senators were still discussing a shorter plan to fund the government as the deadline drew ever closer — Schumer walked off the floor with McConnell, chatting on the sidelines — but no clear plan emerged.

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 are standing 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 reelection 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.

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 in the 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 cancelled a planned trip to Florida on Friday, engaged with lawmakers by phone and on Twitter.

When asked if Trump might go to Florida tomorrow, Mulvaney said “He’s not leaving until this is finished.”

“If the Senate changes anything it’s going to have to back to the House. Now in theory, the Senate could deal with it before midnight and the House could in some fashion deal with it before midnight. It’s more likely that if the Senate makes any changes it would take the House a while to get everybody back for the vote,” Mulvaney said of timing.

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.

This is a developing story. Please check back for details.

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