Donald Trump blames looming US Government shutdown on Democrats – Donald Trump’s America
The US House of Representatives and the Senate have adjourned without a deal on spending, all but ensuring a partial Government shutdown at midnight, with President Donald Trump demanding billions of dollars for his long-promised Mexican border wall.
- If a government funding bill fails to pass the Senate, a partial shutdown could begin
- Affected agencies would limit staff to those deemed “essential” to public safety
- Funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Agriculture Department is set to expire at 4:00pm on Saturday AEDT
Mr Trump’s top envoys were straining to broker a last-minute compromise with Democrats and some of their own Republican Party’s politicians. But as Vice-President Mike Pence, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed back and forth at the Capitol, there were no outward signs of a deal.
The House adjourned, and senators were told there would be no more votes on Friday night.
The shutdown, scheduled for midnight local time (4:00pm Saturday AEDT), would disrupt Government operations and leave hundreds of thousands of federal workers granted a leave of absence or forced to work without pay just days before Christmas.
At a White House bill signing, Mr Trump said the Government was “totally prepared for a very long shutdown”.
Mr Trump tried to pin the blame on Democrats for the shutdown, even though just last week he said he would be “proud” to shut part of the Government in a fight for the wall.
Campaigning for office two years ago, he had declared the wall would go up “so fast it will make your head spin”. He also promised Mexico would pay for it, which Mexico has said it will never do.
“This is our only chance that we’ll ever have, in our opinion, because of the world and the way it breaks out, to get great border security,” Mr Trump said on Friday.
Democrats will take control of the House in January, and they oppose major funding for wall construction.
Looking for a way to claim victory, Mr Trump said he would accept money for a “steel slat barrier” with spikes on the top, which he said would be just as effective as a “wall” and “at the same time beautiful”.
Mr Trump convened Republican senators for a morning meeting, but the lengthy back-and-forth did not appear to set a strategy for moving forward.
A person granted anonymity because they were unauthorised to discuss the private session said the President would not get behind lower levels of funding the senators discussed. He has demanded $US5.7 billion.
Top leaders hope for short shutdown
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell returned to Capitol Hill and quickly set in motion a procedural vote on a House Republican package that would give Mr Trump the money he wants for the wall, but it was not expected to pass.
To underscore the difficulty, that Senate vote to proceed was stuck in a long holding pattern as senators were being recalled to Washington.
They had already approved a bipartisan package earlier this week that would continue existing border security funding, at $US1.3 billion, but without new money for Mr Trump’s wall. Many were home for the holidays.
Only after a marathon five-hour delay did Mr Pence cast a tie-breaking vote that loosened the logjam, kickstarting negotiations that senators hoped could produce a resolution.
Democrat Steny Hoyer said it looked like a shutdown might not be avoidable, but top leaders were talking and he indicated any government disruption could be short.
Amid the impasse, Mr Pence and the others were dispatched to the Capitol to meet with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who told them that Mr Trump’s demands for wall money would not pass the Senate, according to the senator’s spokesman.
Mr Schumer told Mr Pence, Mr Mulvaney and Mr Kushner other offers to keep the Government running with existing levels of border security funds remained on the table.
The Senate was expected to reject the House measure because Democratic votes are needed and Mr McConnell showed little interest in changing the rules — as Mr Trump proposed — to allow a simple majority for passage.
One possibility was that the Senate might strip the border wall funds out of the package, pass it and send it back to the House. House politicians were told to remain in town on call.
Another idea was to revive an earlier bipartisan Senate bill with $US1.6 billion for border security but not the wall.
“The biggest problem is, we just don’t know what the president will sign,” Arizona senator Jeff Flake said.
Senators rush back to Washington
So restive were senators returning to Washington that Mr McConnell and others sported lapel buttons declaring them members of the “Cranky Senate Coalition”.
Texas senator John Cornyn said he returned to his state on Thursday only to get back on an early Friday morning flight to Washington.
Democratic senator Brian Schatz flew all the way home to Hawaii, tweeting that he spent 17 minutes with his family, before returning on the 11-hour flight.
“Wheels down IAD ready to vote no on this stupid wall,” Mr Schatz tweeted, referring to Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
Only a week ago, Mr Trump insisted during a televised meeting at the White House he would take ownership of a shutdown over his border wall. “I will be the one to shut it down,” he said.
But with the hours dwindling before the midnight deadline, he sought to reframe the debate and blame Democrats for the impasse that threatens hundreds of thousands of federal workers at the end-of-the-year holidays.
At issue is funding for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests.
Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, are funded for the year and would continue to operate as usual. The US Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, would not be affected because it is an independent agency.
Both the House and Senate packages would extend government funding through February 8, all but guaranteeing another standoff once Democrats take control of the House in the New Year.
The showdown added to tensions in Washington as politicians also grappled with Mr Trump’s sudden move to pull troops from Syria, which prompted Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to resign and furthered concerns over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election that Mr Trump won.