Washington DC, United States – A temporary government shutdown was all but guaranteed Friday night as Congress struggled to break a stalemate over money for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Parts of the government will close if Congress cannot pass seven spending bills by midnight Friday. Lawmakers scrambled through the afternoon and into the early evening to break an impasse over whether to fund the barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border.
But the House adjourned at about 7 p.m. ET Friday without passing legislation that the Senate supports, and the chamber is not due back until noon Saturday. Then the Senate adjourned at about 8 p.m. ET without approving a spending bill that the House backs. Senators are expected back at noon Saturday, as well.
The deadlock leaves Washington almost certain to let funding lapse for the third time this year. A closure could last through Christmas and into the new year, past when Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3. It would send the unified Republican government out in a swirl of chaos that marked Trump’s first two years in the White House.
Still, lawmakers could move quickly to pass spending legislation this weekend if leaders reach an agreement. House Republicans told members they would get 24 hours of notice before a vote.
Shortly before 6 p.m. ET Friday, the GOP-controlled Senate voted 48-47 to advance a House-passed bill to keep the government running through Feb. 8 and put more than $5 billion toward the president’s wall. Vice President Mike Pence had to break a tie after a vote that lasted five hours and 18 minutes, the longest in Senate history, according to NBC News
Republicans decided to move the bill forward even though it would have failed in a final vote. Democrats have unequivocally said they will not approve money for the border barrier. Instead, lawmakers aim to use the House-passed bill to “preserve maximum flexibility” as Democrats try to strike a deal with the White House on a spending bill that can pass both the Senate and House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
“When an agreement is reached, it will receive a vote here on the Senate floor,” he said. Both Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., agreed to advance the measure with the assurance that lawmakers would next vote once they had a plan that could get through both chambers of Congress.
It left negotiators limited time to strike a deal before the shutdown deadline. Trump has promised to “take the mantle” and be “proud” if funding lapses as he tries to secure money for the wall. House Republicans, knowing funding for the barrier would not get through both chambers, approved their bill Thursday after Trump threatened to veto the Senate-passed measure without wall money.
As the procedural Senate vote remained open for hours Friday, Pence, incoming White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kusher navigated the Capitol trying to make progress toward a deal. They met with Schumer at the White House’s request, a spokesman for the Democrat said.
Speaking after the Senate advanced the House legislation, Schumer said he offered the White House three proposals to keep the government running. One was the bill the Senate passed Wednesday, to fund the government through Feb. 8 without wall money. Trump previously threatened to veto the measure, which caused House Republicans to abandon it Thursday and instead pass a bill with funds for the barrier included.
The other two offers are six appropriations bills paired with a continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security, or seven continuing resolutions.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill also discussed the possibility of passing $1.6 billion in border security money to break the stalemate, according to reports. However, House conservatives — Trump allies who rallied him against the Senate’s previous short-term funding bill — reportedly oppose such a deal.
Democrats, whose votes are needed to reach the necessary 60 in the Senate, have repeatedly said they will not approve funds for the barrier. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority.
As lawmakers and his administration officials tried to dodge a shutdown at the Capitol, Trump tweeted a drawing of what he called a “Steel Slat Barrier” he hopes to build. It showed thin metal poles with spikes at their tips. He wrote: The structure is “totally effective while at the same time beautiful!”
A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!
He later tweeted a picture of himself in the Oval Office, saying he canceled his holiday trip to his Florida resort “while we wait to see if the Democrats will help us to protect America’s Southern Border!
After Trump huddled with key Senate Republicans on Friday afternoon, both parties appeared to dig in more deeply. Following the meeting, the president said the chance of a shutdown is “very good.” In the afternoon, McConnell wholeheartedly endorsed the House legislation, only two days after he supported a bill without wall money.
The Kentucky Republican argued the “political winds” on the left made Democrats reluctant to support a bill that “would be quite uncontroversial in a more normal political moment.” Moments before McConnell made those comments, Schumer insisted Democrats would not fund the wall.
“There are not votes in the Senate for an expensive taxpayer-funded border wall. So, President Trump, you will not get your wall,” he said. “Abandon your shutdown strategy. You are not getting your wall today, next week or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”
Funding for nine departments, including Homeland Security, Justice and State, will lapse after midnight. While essential law enforcement officers and other employees would stay on the job, many would not get paid during the shutdown.
As lawmakers tried to find a way forward Friday afternoon, McConnell held up a button to reporters reading “Senate Cranky Coalition.” He called it the “unanimous position” of the Senate GOP conference at the time.
In a string of tweets Friday, Trump again laid out his case for the barrier and pressured Democrats to back it. He admitted Democrats “will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED.” The party has called the wall proposal inhumane, and even many Republicans have joined it in calling the possible barrier ineffective.
“If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time,” the president wrote.
In a subsequent tweet, Trump wrote: “Shutdown today if Democrats do not vote for Border Security!”
The president prepared to scrap a planned trip to Florida as a shutdown appeared more likely Friday.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that the House would not take up the Senate-passed temporary funding measure because “the president said he would veto that.” He said the chambers “would try to find where the common ground lies” if the Senate opposed border wall money.
Asked Thursday what would happen if the Senate votes down the House bill, Schumer told reporters, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
As Trump lamented a lack of Democratic votes Friday morning, he again pushed the Senate to scrap the legislative filibuster that requires 60 votes for most legislation. He wrote of McConnell: “Mitch, use the Nuclear Option and get it done!”
He thanked Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., for “being willing to go with the so-called nuclear option in order to win on DESPERATELY NEEDED Border Security! Have my total support.”
McConnell has rejected Trump’s repeated requests to get rid of the filibuster rule for legislation. He reiterated his opposition Friday.
“The Leader has said for years that the votes are not there in the Conference to use the nuclear option,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said in a statement. “Just this morning, several Senators put out statements confirming their opposition, and confirming that there is not a majority in the conference to go down that road.”
Plus, the process could not be used for a spending bill, according to McConnell’s office.
Schumer also opposes getting rid of the legislative filibuster. Republicans did scrap the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court justices last year.
By CNBC News