Government Shuts Down As Congress Fails To Pass Funding Measure

January 20, 2018
The U.S. Capitol is seen as lawmakers worked to avert a government shutdown Friday in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Capitol is seen as lawmakers worked to avert a government shutdown Friday in Washington, D.C.

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Updated at 12:45 p.m. CT

The federal government is now in a partial shutdown after Congress failed to pass a stopgap measure to keep funding going ahead of a midnight deadline.

It's an unprecedented situation given that shutdowns usually happen in times of divided government. But this is the first time it's happened with one party controlling both Congress and the White House.

President Trump was tweeting at dawn, blaming Democrats for the lapse in government funding as the Senate failed to advance a four-week extension overnight.

Trump accused Democrats of choosing "unchecked illegal immigration" over the military, and Democrats say he has not kept his word to find a deal to protect immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.

Members of the House and Senate are reconvening in the Capitol on Saturday to try to resolve the impasse. But it's not clear what path there is to a compromise, as Republican leaders made clear they will not negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.

The House came back into session at 9 a.m. ET, before Republicans and Democrats headed for separate, closed-door caucus meetings to chart their paths forward. The Senate was set to return at noon ET.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced early Saturday that he will be offering an amendment to change the proposed funding bill from a four-week time frame to three weeks, meaning it would extend funding through Feb. 8 instead of Feb. 16. But it does not have any substantive changes on immigration or long-term spending, which would be key to a longer resolution.

The three-week proposal has been championed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., since Friday evening. Graham had opposed the longer measure for four weeks of funding which passed in the House Thursday but failed in the Senate early Saturday morning, just after the shutdown took effect. Throughout the evening Friday, Graham's proposal for a shorter timeframe of stopgap funding seemed to be picking up steam with senators even as the chamber failed to pass the House measure and failed to reach any larger deal on a number of issues that have been under consideration relating to spending levels, immigration and border security.

Early Saturday morning, Trump accused Democrats of playing "Shutdown politics."

Since most government offices won't open again until Monday, there is time over the weekend for legislators to reach a compromise, and House members have been kept in Washington, D.C., in case that happens.

Both of Illinois' US Senators voted against the stopgap measure. Democrat Tammy Duckworth released a statement after the vote, decrying the short-term method of funding the government.

“This short-term funding bill deprives roughly 45,000 servicemembers in Illinois—and the whole of our military—of the certainty needed to protect and defend our nation. Even the Pentagon warned this week about the ‘wasteful and destructive’ national security ramifications of failing, once again, to provide long-term funding. I’m listening to them, and I wish Donald Trump and the Republicans who control both houses of Congress would as well.
 
“In addition to seriously harming our Armed Forces, this bill fails to adequately support Veterans or fund community health centers, and it leaves hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in a state of uncertainty. Enough is enough. I didn’t spend 23 years in the military going through multiple deployments just to weaken our national security, hurt our troops and kick the can down the road again. If they wanted to, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump could address these concerns with bipartisan votes on Republican-written legislation that solve each of these problems, and they know it. That they haven’t—even though they control all levers of government—jeopardizes not just our military, but the well-being of the very people we took an oath to serve.”

Before last night's vote, Illinois' Republican House delegation, who all voted in favor of the stopgap measure Thursday night, released a statement asking both Duckworth and fellow Democrat Dick Durbin to vote in favor of the measure.

“Yesterday, we voted for a bill to fund and keep open the government, fund our military, and fully fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years. Now, Senators Durbin and Duckworth must do their job. Conversations are ongoing to find a solution for DACA before the March deadline, but government funding and CHIP deadlines are now. Delaying the continuing resolution only delays negotiations on a DACA fix. Our Senators should end their filibuster threat and instead, allow a vote to ensure our troops are paid and certainty is given to the 325,990 children who rely on CHIP in Illinois.”

On Saturday, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (IL-13), John Shimkus (IL-15), Peter Roskam (IL-06), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), Randy Hultgren (IL-14), Mike Bost (IL-12), and Darin LaHood (IL-18) released the following statement:

“Last night, Senators Durbin and Duckworth put their party’s leadership over the priorities of Illinois by voting to shut down the government. They voted against our military, against long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and against keeping our government open. Their actions have endangered funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the middle of a nation-wide flu epidemic. Senator Durbin once said shutting down the government is ‘cowardice,’ but now he is leading the charge with Senator Schumer for this shutdown over a deadline for DACA that is more than a month away. We are asking Senators Durbin and Duckworth to vote on the substance of the bill; we are asking them to vote to reopen the government up immediately. Holding the government hostage over unrelated issues that we have all committed to addressing is no way to govern.”

As the shutdown took effect, talks among Senate leaders were still happening on the Senate floor after a procedural vote late Friday lacked the 60 yes votes needed to advance the House's four-week funding bill.

Around 12:15 a.m. ET, McConnell voted no on the House measure, doing so for procedural reasons that allowed him to preserve the ability to bring up a substitute bill later. The final vote was 50-49, with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., absent from the vote.

The apparent congressional paralysis risked overshadowing the first anniversary of President Trump's inauguration and capped off a year defined at times by chaos and frustration from both the White House and congressional Republicans despite their unified control of Washington.

And it comes after days of hurried negotiations to find a compromise failed, leading to finger-pointing from both parties eager to shift the blame to the other side.

Republicans and McConnell had been angling for a four-week continuing resolution, that included extending the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years in an effort to entice Democrats to vote for the insurance program they want to fund.

But Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pushed to include an immigration measure that would include a pathway to citizenship for roughly 700,000 immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program the Trump administration rescinded last year. Democrats wanted a pathway to citizenship for those roughly 700,000 immigrants who were in the country illegally after being brought here as children.

Republicans blamed Democrats for angling for the DACA legislative fix over keeping the government open, using the hashtag #SchumerShutdown and launching an accompanying website focused on Schumer.

Shortly before midnight, the White House released a statement blasting Democrats as "obstructionist losers."

"Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown. Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country's ability to serve all Americans. We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform. During this politically manufactured Schumer Shutdown, the President and his Administration will fight for and protect the American people."

Trump has canceled plans to travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida over the weekend, where he was set to have a gala fundraiser Saturday to commemorate his inauguration one year ago.

Just after midnight, McConnell took the Senate floor to put fault on Democrats for not backing the House bill and averting a shutdown.

"What we have just witnessed on the floor was a cynical decision to shove aside millions of Americans for the sake of irresponsible political gains," the GOP leader said. "A government shutdown was 100 percent avoidable, completely avoidable. Now it is imminent all because Senate Democrats chose to filibuster a noncontroversial funding bill that contains nothing — not a thing — that they do not support."

However, the hashtag #TrumpShutdown was also trending on Twitter late Friday night, and Democrats believe that it's Republicans who will end up shouldering the majority of blame from the public given the GOP controls both Congress and the White House.

Trump appeared to complicate efforts to reach a compromise over the past weeks, at first signaling he would sign any immigration deal but then rejecting a bipartisan proposal, bending to his conservative, hardline base and insisting any deal had to have funding for his trademark border wall. And negotiations further stalled after Trump reportedly used a vulgarity in questioning why the U.S. should welcome immigrants from Africa instead of places like Norway. (Trump has denied that he used that language.)

Schumer took to the Senate floor immediately after McConnell early Saturday and said that when he met with Trump at the White House Friday, he had even put the border wall on the negotiating table in order to reach a compromise on DACA. But "even that was not enough to entice the president to finish the deal," Schumer said, accusing Trump and Republicans of "rooting for a shutdown" which would "crash entirely" on the president's shoulders.

"What happened to the president who asked us to come out with a deal and promised he'd take heat for it? What happened to that president? He backed off at the first sign of pressure," Schumer said. "The same chaos, the same disarray, the same division and discord on the Republican side that's been in the background of these negotiations for months unfortunately appears endemic."

DACA supporters gather at a rally outside the U.S. Capitol on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Polling released Friday from both Washington Post/ABC News and CNN found that most Americans would blame Trump and Republicans over Democrats in the event a shutdown occurred. However, CNN also found a majority said approving a budget deal was more important than finding a way to advance DACA.

As NPR's Brian Naylor reported, if the shutdown continues, essential services will continue and essential workers would remain on the job, though unpaid. Active duty military will be unaffected, along with postal services. In a change from the last time the government shut down in October 2013, the Interior Department announced it will work to keep national parks open and "as accessible as possible."

Story source: NPR