Trump, Leading Democrats Fault Each Other As Partial Shutdown Heads Into 2019
Updated at 4:57 p.m. ET
Six days into a partial government shutdown, congressional Democrats and President Trump are showing no signs of reaching a deal to reopen the government. Instead, it appears the shutdown could last until 2019.
The president has only a few more days to advance any spending agreement with the help of full GOP control in Washington. Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3, giving them significant new leverage over future spending talks.
But on Thursday afternoon, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House majority whip, advised members that no votes were expected in the House this week. Scalise also told lawmakers that while the House awaits Senate action on a spending bill, he will aim to provide members with 24 hours' notice before any expected votes in the House. Representatives are likely to be waiting until next week as the Senate is not scheduled to be back in session until Jan. 2.
The House and Senate briefly opened for business Thursday afternoon, but the momentary sessions were hardly a sign of behind-the-scenes negotiation. The halls of Congress have been nearly empty in recent days, save for a skeleton crew of staff and lawmakers. Democrats say they are all waiting for Trump to abandon his demand for $5 billion to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Trump is showing no signs of backing down. "The President has made clear that any bill to fund the government must adequately fund border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs, criminals, MS-13 gang members, child smugglers and human traffickers into our communities – and protect the American people," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
Sanders continued: "The Administration understands this crisis and made a reasonable, common-sense solution to Democrats five days ago - we've not received a single response. The President and his team stayed in Washington over Christmas hoping to negotiate a deal that would stop the dangerous crisis on the border, protect American communities, and re-open the government. The Democrats decided to go home. The only rational conclusion is that the Democrat party is openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people. The President does not want the government to remain shut down, but he will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritize our county's safety and security."
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the likely next House speaker, showed no sign of backing down either. "Democrats have offered Republicans three options to re-open government that all include funding for strong, sensible, and effective border security – but not the President's immoral, ineffective and expensive wall," a spokesman for Pelosi said in a dueling statement Thursday afternoon. "With the House Majority, Democrats will act swiftly to end the Trump Shutdown, and will fight for a strategic, robust national security policy, including strong and smart border security, and strong support for our servicemembers and veterans."
On Twitter Trump also sought to blame Democrats for the shutdown.
Trump has refused to sign any spending bill that does not include money for the border wall. Senate leaders have repeatedly said that money for the wall cannot be approved in the Senate, where Democrats have sufficient votes to block the legislation.
So far, neither side has been willing to negotiate, leaving roughly 25 percent of the government without funding. Democrats say they have been willing to negotiate with the White House on more money for border security, but they do not trust that Trump will accept any agreement.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have said they are getting conflicting guidance from White House aides.
"Different people from the same White House are saying different things about what the president would accept or not accept to end his Trump Shutdown, making it impossible to know where they stand at any given moment," the two leading Democrats said in a statement released on Christmas Eve. "The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it."
But Trump insists Democrats are to blame, despite an earlier statement that he would personally take credit for a shutdown if one were to occur. In another tweet, he went on to claim without evidence that most of the workers who are being harmed by loss of wages in the shutdown vote for Democrats.
Meanwhile federal workers are beginning to cope with the fallout. The Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, has posted guidance for workers on how to talk to creditors about diminished cash flow during a shutdown.
Roughly 800,000 workers across the country will be impacted by the shutdown. The OPM estimates that 85 percent of federal workers, not including military personnel and postal employees, live and work outside of the Washington, D.C., area.
Some will be furloughed, others will be asked to work without pay until the government reopens. Congress usually provides for federal employees to be repaid for lost wages during a shutdown but that does not extend to contract workers like many security guards and janitors.