US Government Shutdown set to extend into new year after Congress punts on budget, border votes

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DECEMBER 28, 2018

President Trump greets members of the five branches of the military by video conference on Christmas Day, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. – Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Washington all but gave up Thursday on resolving the partial government shutdown before the New Year, as lawmakers were told not to expect votes this week and signs of negotiations were nonexistent.

On Capitol Hill, the hallways were quiet and leadership offices were shuttered. At the White House, President Trump retreated from public view and tweeted recriminations at Democrats for blocking funding for his border wall.

Behind the scenes, Democratic aides were working to draft legislation to reopen the government once they take over the House on Jan. 3.

It was day 6 of the third partial government shutdown of the year, and, barring a surprise resolution, it will become the second-longest of the decade when Congress convenes next week to open its 116th session in a new divided Washington.

“We have not been able to reach agreement, with regards to the leadership on both sides. And I think it’s clear that we on the Republican side do not want to vote for a bill that the president won’t sign,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) told reporters after presiding over a pro forma session in the Senate that lasted four minutes.

“In Dodge City, Kansas, they say a horse divided against itself cannot stand,” Roberts added. “That’s about where we are.”

The standoff over Trump’s demands for funding for his border wall left some 25 percent of the government without funding and hundreds of thousands of government workers stranded at home, facing the possibility that they will miss paychecks if the situation continues.

During a brief pro forma session in the House, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) sought recognition to get a vote on legislation to reopen the government. He was denied by the Republicans who are in their final days in control of the chamber.

“The American people understand that this is an urgent matter. The only people who don’t seem to be in any hurry are the Republican leadership and the president. It’s ridiculous,” McGovern told reporters later.

McGovern noted that there had been what appeared to be agreement last week to keep the government open without adding new border wall money, until Trump revoked his support for it. “Until the president, you know, went off his meds, and who the hell knows what happened,” McGovern said.

Trump on Thursday blamed Democratic “OBSTRUCTION of the desperately needed Wall.”

The Senate will not return for legislative session until the afternoon of Jan. 2, on the eve of the handover of power to Democrats in the House. That allows one last window to reopen the government before Democrats take control, in the unlikely event a deal is reached before then.

About 25 percent of the federal government has been shut down since Saturday, with roughly 800,000 workers affected, including an estimated 350,000 who are on furlough at home without pay. At the heart of the stalemate is Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for his proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Congressional Democrats have rejected that figure and made counteroffers of as much as $1.6 billion for border security but not for a new wall.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Democrats’ probably plan is to put a bill that funds the government, without money for Trump’s wall, on the floor on Jan. 3. That is the first day of the new session of Congress, when Democrats take control of the House.

The legislation would likely extend government funding through Feb. 8, mirroring a bipartisan bill the Senate passed last week before Trump withdrew his support, starting the chain of events that ended in the shutdown. The Senate would have to repass that legislation in January, as it will be before a new Congress.

With no end to the shutdown in sight, the Office of Personnel Management sent out a Twitter post Thursday morning in which it shared advice and letter templates for federal workers to use in negotiating for deferred rent and payments to other creditors.

“As we discussed, I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency. Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my rent, along with my other expenses,” one of the sample letters reads. It also suggests the possibility of doing building chores in exchange for reduced payments.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday, 47 percent of adults hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress, and 7 percent blame congressional Republicans. The poll was conducted Dec. 21-25, mostly after the shutdown began.

Another Trump tweet on Thursday claiming most furloughed workers are Democrats prompted criticism from some Democrats who argued that federal workers are not the partisans the president has made them out to be.

“This is outrageous,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said in a tweet. “Federal employees don’t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They’re public servants. And the President is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos.”


Courtesy/Source: Washington Post

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