Funding for government lapses as short term spending bill stalls in the Senate


January 20, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The government shut down early Saturday morning on the first anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration after Congress failed to meet a midnight deadline to renew funding.

January 20, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The government shut down early Saturday morning on the first anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration after Congress failed to meet a midnight deadline to renew funding.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called a shutdown “100-percent avoidable” and blamed Democrats for filibustering a bill he called “non-controversial.” The vote failed 50-49.

“Perhaps across the aisle some of our Democratic colleagues are feeling proud of themselves, but what has their filibuster accomplished? What has it accomplished? The answer is simple: Their very own government shutdown,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor.

He spoke moments after the Senate failed to close debate on a short-term spending bill that would have kept the government open through Feb. 16. Amid opposition from Democrats and some Republicans, the measure stalled for two hours as party leaders tried to reach a separate agreement on a short-term extension. They were unable to do so before midnight.

The vote was 50-49, short of the 60 needed to advance.

Republicans had insisted on a four-week funding extension that included a six-year authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and delayed several health-care taxes. Senate Democrats called for a funding extension of several days that would allow more time for negotiations over the legal status of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as “dreamers.”

The White House in a statement lashed out at Democrats for holding “our lawful citizens hostage” over their “reckless” demands to give legal status to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

“This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

“When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking on the floor, blamed the GOP, which controls all levers of government. He singled out Trump as indecisive and unable to come to a deal.

“This is no way to conduct the nation’s business,” Schumer said. “Republican leadership can’t get to yes because President Trump refuses to.”

“Mr. President, if you are listening,” he said, “I am urging you: please take yes for an answer.

The impact was felt at the White House, where furloughs of some staff went into immediate effect.

It was unclear what Congress might do over the weekend to reopen the government. House members were dismissed from Capitol Hill midday Friday but told to remain in Washington in case of further votes.

Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said in a radio interview that he found it “kind of cool” that his position would allow him to officially close the government, predicted the conflict would be resolved before agencies open Monday.

“I think there’s a deal in the next 24 hours,” he told reporters.

The last shutdown, in 2013, lasted for 16 days as Republicans tried unsuccessfully to force changes to the Affordable Care Act. A government shutdown causing employee furloughs has never occurred under unified party control of Congress and the White House.

Friday’s vote followed a day lacking the tense discussions and spirited closed-door meetings that typically precede important legislative deadlines. While President Trump met with Schumer about a possible deal on Friday afternoon, their discussion produced no resolution, and Trump quickly reaffirmed his support for the GOP spending plan to keep agencies open for 30 days.

In a tweet, Trump said the situation was “not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border” and claimed Democrats “want” a shutdown.

For most of Friday, most senators remained out of the loop and unsure of what to expect.

In the quiet hallways of the Capitol, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) shuttled between McConnell’s and Schumer’s offices, trying to secure support for a spending bill to last through Feb. 8. The talks were “on the ten-yard line on a lot of issues,” Graham said.

At the same time, as the evening wore on, several Democrats said they would support the GOP bill.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Doug Jones (Ala.), all of whom face tough paths to reelection in states that supported Trump, voted to end debate on the bill.

Meanwhile, four Republicans voted against ending debate: Sens. Graham (S.C.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.).

Before the vote, most Democrats seemed to view a shutdown as inevitable.

“My guess is it probably won’t go much past the first of the week, in which case the disruption won’t be particularly severe, “said Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.

He predicted a solution to keep the government open for a short period “within a few days.”

“It’s going to be a function of whether Paul Ryan is willing to actually demonstrate some leadership and figure out what his conference is willing to compromise on and the same with Mitch,” he said.

On the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) let his frustration with the stalemate show in an unusually frank comment.

“This is the greatest country in the world, but we do have some really stupid people representing it from time to time,” he said. “I probably have gone too far saying that, but it’s true and it’s disappointing to me.”

Trump and the Republicans, who control all levers of government, risked a political backlash tied to the shutdown. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans by a 20-point margin would blame Trump and the GOP over Democrats if the government were to close.

At 7 p.m., about 150 protesters gathered outside the Capitol to hear Democrats promise not to back any spending deal that did not grant legal status to “dreamers.”

“This is a movement,” said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). “We’re going to have some good days, and we’re going to have some bad days. And like every movement that has allowed our country to progress, we are going to have to fight.”

Preparations for a shutdown had taken place throughout the day.

The Trump administration drew up plans to keep national parks and monuments open despite a shutdown as a way to blunt public anger, and congressional staffers received formal notice that they may be furloughed starting at midnight.

At the White House, Trump delayed his departure for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The president had intended to leave Washington late Friday afternoon ahead of a lavish celebration of his first year in office that is planned for Saturday night.

With the House scheduled to be out of session next week, several leaders had planned trips abroad. Vice President Pence left for Israel and Egypt on Friday, Ryan was scheduled to visit Iraq, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) were to accompany Trump to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort village of Davos.

McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said the Davos trip would be canceled in the event of a shutdown.

Courtesy/Source: Washington Post