Government Partially Shuts Down After Congress Fails To Pass Spending Bill

The government partially shut down Saturday at midnight after congressional and White House officials failed to find a compromise on a spending bill that includes President Trump’s demand for a $5.7 billion border wall funding.

Both the US House of Representatives and the Senate adjourned after Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said there would not be a vote Friday night in the Senate.

Agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency are all slated to be impacted by the expiring funding.

The Office of Management and Budget, still run by incoming acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney issued guidance to each agency to develop its own shutdown plan. Under the guidance, federal agencies must halt all “non essential discretionary work” while non-essential employees don’t have to work until new funding legislation is signed into law.

This is the first time in 40 years that the government has been closed three times in a year.

Before adjourning Friday night, the Senate passed by unanimous consent a bill to ensure federal employees impacted during the government shutdown will get back pay. The measure was brought up by both Maryland Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, who represent many DC area federal employees who live in the state. However, the bill will still need to pass in the House. 

The House Thursday night passed a new stopgap spending measure by a 217-185 vote that included Trump’s request for $5 billion for a border wall. However, it was clear on Friday that the new stopgap measure passed by the House didn’t have the votes needed to pass in the Senate and was not brought up for a vote, creating more uncertainty on a path forward.

Early Friday morning, Trump tweeted for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the “nuclear option” to lower the threshold needed to pass the spending bill from 60 votes to a simple majority of 51. McConnell has refused to go nuclear in the past for the fear of Democrats likely controlling the Senate in the future and using such technique. Other Republicans shortly after began voicing their opposition for McConnell to invoke the nuclear option, diminishing any chance of passing the bill via this route.

Republicans, who will lose control of the House on January 3rd, see this fight as their last chance to secure funding for Trump’s long-promised border wall. Democrats have blasted the wall as unnecessary, expensive and offensive and promised not to support any legislation that includes $5 billion for the wall.

During a signing ceremony for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation Friday afternoon, Trump told reporters after meeting with Republican senators that he predicted a government shutdown and blamed the Democrats for it.

“The chances are probably very good that there will be a shutdown,” Trump said to reporters. “It’s really the Democrat shutdown, because we’ve done our thing. Now it’s up to the Democrats as to whether we have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don’t, but we’re totally prepared for a very long shutdown.”

Vice President Mike Pence, Office of Management and Budget Director and incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer late afternoon in a meeting requested by the Trump administration. According to Schumer spokesperson, the measure for a border wall funding wouldn’t pass in the Senate and urged the White House to consider agreeing on funding for other forms of border security.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Schumer called for President Trump to abandon his shutdown strategy, reminding Trump that Senate Republicans likely do not have the votes to pass funding for the border wall.

“There are not the votes in the Senate for an expensive, taxpayer-funded border wall,” Schumer said. “President Trump, you will not get your wall. Abandon your shutdown strategy. You’re not getting the wall today, next week, or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”

There was a glimmer of progress later in the day when the Senate voted, 48 to 47, with Pence breaking the tie, to begin debating stopgap spending legislation passed Thursday night by the House that would keep the government running through Feb. 8 and provide $5.7 billion to begin construction of the wall on the southwestern border.

McConnell said the Senate had approved the measure “in order to preserve maximum flexibility for productive conversations to continue between the White House and our Democratic colleagues.”

In a video message two hours before the midnight deadline, Trump attempted to appeal with Democrats to approve funding for the border wall and prevent a shutdown.

The House of Representatives adjourned just before 7.00pm on Friday, with no moves taken to avert a shutdown, and the Senate closed up shop an hour later. McConnell told Senate lawmakers he won’t summon them for a vote until a final deal is reached that can pass both chamber and win Trump’s signature. He instructed them to be available to return to the Capitol with 24 hours notice.

The Senate planned to reconvene at noon Saturday to continue talks.

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House Passes Stopgap Bill Including $5 Billion in Funding For Border Wall
Government Partially Shuts Down After Congress Fails To Pass Spending Bill

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