Welcome to 2019!
It’s a new year, but the same old shutdown, as the impasse between President Trump and congressional Democrats grinds through its 12th day with little sign of progress.
This could go on for days, or even weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated Wednesday after a meeting between top lawmakers and the president at the White House.
With the holidays over and a new Congress set to be sworn in Thursday, the president invited McConnell and other congressional leaders to a “briefing” about the border wall in the White House situation room — the first sign of direct talks between the parties since the partial shutdown began on December 22.
“Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” Trump tweeted Tuesday. But ahead of his meeting with top lawmakers, Trump stood by his demand for more than $5 billion in border wall money and declined to say whether he would sign off on legislation that included less.
"The $5 billion approved by the House is such a small amount compared to the level of the problem," he said, adding that the shutdown could last “a long time” or could be over quickly — but that he’d be willing to keep the government shut down “as long as it takes” to secure funding for the wall.
Before Christmas, Vice President Mike Pence had reportedly offered Democrats a compromise that called for $2.5 billion in border security and immigration funding. Trump on Wednesday said that he would not accept that amount, again highlighting the difficulty of negotiating with the administration.
Wednesday’s meeting ended without any indication of compromise, though the president invited lawmakers to return to the White House on Friday.
What Happens Next
Democrats, set to take control of the House on Thursday, plan to pass six appropriations bills to fund most shuttered departments and agencies through the end of the fiscal year in September, at levels Senate Republicans have previously accepted. They also plan a separate bill funding the Department of Homeland Security until February 8, without providing additional border wall money that Trump wants.
Those House votes won’t be enough to reopen the government — they’ll just put the ball in McConnell’s court. The Senate GOP leader has made clear he will not move forward on any legislation until Trump publicly approves it, and the White House says that the Democratic plan is a “nonstarter.” Trump has said he won’t sign off on bills to reopen the government unless he gets money for the wall, but he has failed to clarify just what that means.
As the president and Democratic leaders each try to ramp up the pressure on the other side, the government departments and agencies affected by the shutdown are reaching what Politico called “a breaking point in their ability to go on with minimal disruption.” Many departments and agencies that were able to use leftover funds to continue operating through the initial days of the shutdown have now run out of cash.
The National Zoo and 19 Smithsonian museums are now closed, for example. And federal workers who got paid Friday for the pay period that ended December 22 now face the prospect that they’ll miss their next paycheck. The American Federation of Government Employees filed a lawsuit Monday against the Trump administration, alleging that the shutdown is illegally forcing more than 400,000 federal employees to work without pay.