GOP lawmakers are fuming over a partial government shutdown set to hit just in time for Christmas, after President Trump put his foot down in a Tuesday meeting with Democratic leaders and demanded $5 billion in funding for a border wall – as opposed to the $1.3 billion which would otherwise be appropriated.
During the Tuesday meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Trump said he could easily have a bill passed by the house – to which Pelosi shot back “Then do it!“
Chuck Schumer later dug his heels in on the Senate Floor “I want to be crystal clear. There will be no additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It’s done.“
Instead, Schumer said Democrats would pass a yearlong stopgap bill which would fund the Department of Homeland Security – or a measure funding all the departments and agencies covered by seven unfinished appropriations bills; both options which would keep the border wall funding a $1.3 billion.
With the two sides at an impasse, it appears that the partial shutdown is a foregone conclusion unless someone blinks.
“There is no discernable plan. None that’s been disclosed,” said #2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas. “Everybody’s looking to [Trump] for a signal about what he wants to do. So far, it’s not clear.”
In a sign that the GOP is having issues coordinating a plan, majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) announced on Thursday that the House would advance a bill with Trump’s $5 billion wall request – however House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) didn’t seem to know anything about it. “I didn’t hear him say that. … Interesting,” said McCarthy when asked about it by a reporter.
Other Republicans expressed frustration with the impasse, with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) suggesting that the House’s failure to pass a bill was a significant problem. “That’s a central question,” said Shelby. “We’re at an impasse and at the moment it doesn’t look like things are getting any better.”
“This is a case where I think people are putting their political interests ahead of the best interests of the American people. The best interest of the American people is for the government to function smoothly,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. “I personally don’t think a government shutdown will work,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), meanwhile, has expressed privately that he strongly wants to avoid a shutdown. “He has zero interest in going through a government shutdown,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the chief deputy whip, asked whether the GOP would gain leverage by passing the funding bill with $5 billion in wall funding, said he wasn’t sure it was in the House GOP’s interest to send the bill to the Senate if it couldn’t get through that chamber.
“Ok, so it’s December after the election. We shouldn’t be here for show, we should be here to get our work done and get out of here,” he told reporters Wednesday evening. “We have to look at where we are in this process and what is the additive piece here: Is it the stay and wait or is it to take action? So those two things matter for a call like this.” –The Hill
“We need to secure our borders, I support that, I support the president, but at some point and time we need to get things done,” said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI)
The House held its last vote of the week Thursday and won’t be back until next Wednesday – two days before the government shutdown deadline.
With Congress and Trump already having approved funding bills for 75% of the $1.2 trillion operating budget for federal agencies, the remaining 25% would be subject to the shutdown.
As we noted on Wednesday, among the agencies which would be affected by the partial shutdown are Homeland Security – although several of the agency’s law enforcement components would continue to operate as usual as they are considered essential, according to Bloomberg.
At the Department of Homeland Security, the overwhelming majority of border patrol, emergency management and immigration enforcement staff would be able to keep doing their jobs, though with their pay delayed.
At the Department of Housing and Human Development, on the other hand, 87 percent of the agency’s 7,800 employees would be sent home. The Treasury Department is among agencies that would furlough workers. Its biggest component is the Internal Revenue Service and most of its employees wouldn’t report to work because it’s not tax season. Environmental Protection Agency employees would also be furloughed. –Bloomberg
National parks would remain open, however park staff would be sent home.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would be forced to halt new investigations unless they are needed “for the protection of property.”
The Defense Department, of course, is fully funded and would operate as usual.
An estimated 400,000 federal employees would work without pay and 350,000 would be furloughed, according to a congressional Democratic aide. The essential employees who work during a shutdown are paid retroactively when the government reopens and payroll operations resume. After previous shutdowns, Congress also has passed legislation to retroactively pay furloughed workers. –Bloomberg
That said, it’s possible that lawmakers could agree on another short-term funding bill that would last into January, or perhaps they would reach a deal that allows all sides to prevail.