Government shuts down with no deal in sight

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference January 20, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The U.S. government is shut down after the Senate failed to pass a resolution to temporarily fund the government through February 16. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Senator Chuck Schumer , Democrat of New York, spoke at a news conference Saturday in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Congress failed to fund the government before a midnight deadline Friday, triggering the first federal shutdown since 2013.

Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans blocked a short-term funding bill sent over from the House late Friday night after a long day of finger-pointing between both parties over who was to blame for the bitter impasse.

The display of stunning government dysfunction came just a week after President Trump rejected a bipartisan deal to protect more than a million young immigrants in exchange for money to build a portion of the border wall he promised during the 2016 campaign.


A shutdown will have wide-ranging effects on the economy as hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are deemed nonessential to national security would be furloughed without pay. Even a shutdown of just one week could cost the US economy $6.5 billion, according to a Standard & Poor’s analysis.

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On Saturday morning, the White House said Trump will not negotiate immigration policy with Congress until the government reopens, according to the Associated Press.

Spokesman Hogan Gidley said it’s ‘‘disgusting’’ that Senate Democrats ‘‘decided to just throw our military under the bus.’’

On the House floor Saturday morning, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans are ‘‘so incompetent and negligent that they couldn’t get it together to keep the government open.’’

“Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border,” Trump tweeted less than three hours before the midnight deadline when a shutdown would begin and last-ditch meetings on Capitol Hill sputtered to a fruitless end. “Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts.”


On Saturday morning, after the shutdown, Trump tweeted, “This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present.” Later in the morning he tweeted, “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”

Meanwhile, the AP said that the Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin considering a three-week version of a short-term spending measure and to broadcast to the people they serve that they were at work as the closure commenced. It seemed likely that each side would push for votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies.

The Senate needed 60 votes to push the one-month funding measure forward, but fell short, as four Republicans joined all but five Democrats in blocking the bill.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said after midnight he would soon move forward with another vote that funds the government through Feb. 8 — a week shorter than the bill Senate Democrats rejected Friday. Democrats want to force Republicans to negotiate with them on immigration and a longer-term spending deal.

As the final minutes ticked down to midnight, a large clutch of senators could be seen on the Senate floor in a final, urgent conversation, apparently searching for a solution to the imminent shutdown. Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren was among those in the middle of the circle, along with Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had spent the day trying to broker a short-term compromise.


Democrats and Republicans spent much of Friday blaming each other for the impasse, as Trump and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer met at the White House in a bid to stave off the crisis.


Partisans traded dueling hashtags on Twitter: #SchumerShutdown vs. #TrumpShutdown. The White House press secretary called the Democrats “obstructionist losers.’’

“There’s no way to lay this at the feet of the president,” said Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room. “He’s actively working to get a deal.”

Trump canceled a weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, where he planned Saturday night to celebrate the first anniversary of his inauguration. Instead, he was trying to stave off an embarrassing shutdown to mark the end of his first full year in office.

As the day wound down, and the shutdown countdown clocks on cable TV continued to tick away, Schumer left the White House without announcing any breakthroughs and went back to Capitol Hill to confer with his Democratic colleagues. Trump tweeted that the meeting was “excellent,” but by Friday evening, negotiations had appeared to have broken down entirely in the Senate.

Schumer offered Trump funding for the border wall in exchange for a deal to protect young immigrants who are losing their DACA status, the senator said on the floor. Schumer believed Trump wanted to take the deal, but the president would not encourage Republican leadership to act on it, scuttling the talks.

“The blame should crash entirely on President Trump’s shoulders,” Schumer said.

Graham, a Republican who supports an immigration deal, shuttled between Schumer’s and McConnell’s offices until late in the evening, attempting to hammer out a deal between the two.

While decrying Democrats, Trump, a self-styled master dealmaker, seemed to throw the negotiations into a final crisis and riled Democratic opposition against him. He took a sharp rightward turn on immigration last week, demanding that a short-term spending bill include a provision to cut legal immigration levels in half and crudely asking in an Oval Office meeting why America would want any immigrants from the African continent or Haiti.

The president’s comments radicalized Democrats, who decided to take a harder line in negotiations. “Republicans and President Trump have failed in their most basic responsibility as the governing party,’’ said Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, but they need support from at least nine Democrats in the Senate in order to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.

Even some vulnerable, moderate Democrats from red states, like Senator Jon Tester of Montana, said they would vote against the bill as it was constructed and let the government shut down. Four Democrats from red states, however, announced they would back the spending bill on Friday.

Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a staunch defender of immigrants who often finds himself an outcast within his own party on immigration issues, called the Democrats’ harder stand on the issue “surprising” and “refreshing.”

“We actually vote and take a position and then don’t blink,” Gutierrez said Friday.

Republicans blasted Democrats for holding government funding hostage over immigration. But Democrats had help from a handful of Senate Republicans, such as Graham and Rand Paul, who defected from McConnell earlier in the week and said they would refuse to back another in a series of short-term spending deals to keep government running.

They complained that funding the government in small increments leaves federal agencies and the Pentagon in the dark about how much money they will have this year.

“Thirty days of more chaos, forget it . . . we need to grow up and get this done,” Graham said on MSNBC.

It’s been 20 years since Congress funded the federal government for a full year by the Oct. 1 fiscal year deadline, and lawmakers have passed more than 100 short-term funding bills instead over that time. Bill Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Republican Senate budget staff director, said government shutdowns and continuing resolutions have gone on for decades in Washington, but Friday’s shutdown threat was different because it was the first time a shutdown has loomed while a single party has held both Congress and the presidency.

And while short-term spending bills have been used for decades, the pattern of Congress lurching from one after another after another is a more recent development, a phenomenon that has been partly spurred by the increasing polarization in Washington and the strict spending caps enacted in 2011.

The ramifications of relying so heavily on short-term spending bills extend far beyond the political drama playing out in Congress.

“It makes government more inefficient,” said Hoagland, with agencies unable to plan ahead, respond to new developments, or retire programs that have outlived their usefulness.

Many House Republicans announced Friday they would be flying home this weekend, even as they knew a shutdown loomed in the Senate.

“I think we should go home, we’ve done our job,” said Representative Chris Collins, a Republican from New York. “If Schumer decides to shut the government down, it will be the Schumer shutdown.”

Later, Republican leadership had told House Republicans to stand by in case a new deal arrived from the Senate.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of hiding “behind little children” by attaching funding for children’s health care to the short-term funding bill.

Polling suggests Republicans and Trump will catch the lion’s share of the blame. A new ABC/Washington Post poll released Friday showed that 48 percent of Americans would blame Trump and Republicans for a government shutdown, compared with just 28 percent of people who said they think Democrats would be primarily at fault.

The White House was already taking moves to ensure a shutdown does not look as bad as the last one. During the 2013 shutdown, veterans and children were photographed being turned away from visiting national parks, such as the Lincoln Memorial. Mulvaney, the White House budget director, said federal parks will continue to be open during the shutdown, but employees won’t be paid and trash will not be picked up.

Liz Goodwin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lizcgoodwin. Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane
. Follow her on Twitter@vgmac.