A partial shutdown of the federal government began Saturday after President Trump and Congress were unable to agree on a compromise deal to fund the government before Friday’s midnight deadline. The impasse is due to Trump’s impulsive demand that any spending bill include more than $5 billion in funding for a border wall (or, as he is now calling it, a “steel slat barrier”). White House budget director Mick Mulvaney instructed agency directors to implement shutdown protocols late Friday, and though a rare weekend session of Congress was held with the hope that ongoing negotiations would lead to a solution — those negotiations went nowhere.
Regarding the real-world impact of the shutdown, essential federal agencies will, for the most part, remain open and operate per usual, but nine of the 15 major federal agencies have been shuttered, and some 800,000 federal workers will be affected, including more than 380,000 nonessential workers who will be furloughed and will not be be allowed to work or be paid until the shutdown ends. Among the agencies most heavily affected by those furloughs will be the National Park Service, which will lose 80 percent of its workforce and have to close or partially close national parks and monuments. The IRS will also lose more than 50,000 workers to the furlough.
Below is the latest on the shutdown, with the newest updates at the top:
Mulvaney: Shutdown Could Run Into New Year
In an appearance on Fox New Sunday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney suggested that “it’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” when Democrats would have additional leverage with control of the House.
Mulvaney also stated that, on Saturday, the White House offered a wall-funding compromise somewhere between Trump’s $5 billion mark and Senate Democrats’ number of $1.6 billion, and that “the ball is in their court.” “I don’t think things are going to move very quickly here for the next couple of days,” Mulvaney told host Chris Wallace. For his part on the Sunday morning circuit, Democratic senator Jeff Merkley told ABC’s The Week that Democrats will not agree to any funding for a wall. Illinois senator Richard Durbin added on Twitter that the idea of a wall is “medieval.”
Trouble in the Party
On Saturday afternoon, President Trump hosted a small group of GOP lawmakers at the White House, but they were unable to reach a consensus. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby vied for a spending deal that accounted for $1.6 billion of border wall funding. But the House Freedom Caucus, led by Mark Meadows, refused to accept that Democrat-approved number, pushing for something closer to the $5 billion Trump has demanded.
In a Sunday appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, retiring Tennessee senator Bob Corker expressed his skepticism of the Trump-led shutdown: “This is a made-up fight, so the president can look like he’s fighting, but even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure … The whole thing is juvenile.” The president didn’t respond well to Corker’s opinion, claiming on Twitter that the senator was responsible for the Iran deal — despite voting against it — and that Corker chose to retire because he could not win without Trump’s endorsement.
Trump Will Spend Christmas in D.C.
The White House has announced that President Trump will not travel to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas, but remain in Washington “due to the shutdown,” joined by Melania — who will now be returning from Florida.
Getting Back on the Caravan
The Daily Beast caught wind of the Trump team’s plan for a PR blitz, now that negotiations have failed and the shutdown will continue until at least December 27:
One senior administration official described their shutdown comms strategy as a “caravan redo”—in reference to how Republicans spotlighted and demonized a group of migrants coming traveling to the U.S. southern border in the lead-up to the midterm elections. (The strategy failed to stop the blue wave that occurred.) The official said that Trump and the Republican Party would “draw contrasts” between their draconian immigration policies and the Democrats’ more inclusive approach.
According to two administration officials, the White House intends to send advisers and surrogates throughout the shutdown standoff out on national television to hammer Democrats and to accuse them of wanting illicit drugs, terror, and “trafficking” pouring over the southern border.
Negotiations Will Not Continue Until After Christmas
A fully functioning government will not be under the tree on Tuesday, as both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House have pulled the plug on negotiations until after Christmas, meaning the shutdown won’t end until at least December 27.
McConnell said on Saturday afternoon that he would not reconvene the Senate until Thursday, and has seemed content to pass all responsibility for negotiating a compromise to Democrats and Trump — particularly after Trump cut him out of the negotiations. (“We need Democratic votes and a presidential signature,” McConnell explained when asked on Friday if he was participating.) Officials at the White House, meanwhile, told reporters on Saturday that the president would not end his demand for the border wall funding. Democrats have said that they will not agree to a compromise that includes it.
The Wall-Focused Shutdown Will Probably Hurt Trump and the GOP More Than It Helps
As CNN polling analyst Harry Enten pointed out on Saturday, the border wall, which is what the entire shutdown is about, may please Trump and the GOP’s base, but it’s going to hurt their chances with the broader electorate just like anti-immigration policies seem to have done in the midterms:
[N]ational elections are not all about the base. Yes, the base is important, but it’s also key to win over voters in the center of the electorate. Trump almost certainly needs to pick up the support of more voters if he is going to win in 2020. His overall approval rating remains in the low 40s.
The wall is exactly the type of issue that harms Trump’s chance of becoming popular with the center. Last year, I looked at a slew of potentially controversial policy stances. The wall was the most polarizing. It is opposed by a majority of independents and by 90% of Democrats, according to Quinnipiac. …
In the Quinnipiac poll, only 34% of voters favor a shutdown because of disagreements over funding for the wall. When asked who would get blamed for a shutdown, 51% said congressional Republicans and the President, compared with 37% who said congressional Democrats. A Suffolk University poll out this week came up with similar results.
No End in Sight
Mitch McConnell — who Trump has been unable to pressure into abolishing the filibuster so that the GOP could pass a spending bill with their simple majority — maintained on Saturday that both Senate Democrats and Trump would have to support any deal. And if a deal is reached, lawmakers will be given 24 hours to get back to Congress to vote on it.
Democrats, meanwhile, are insisting that they will not support any spending bill that includes funds for Trump’s wall. They have instead offered to keep border security funding at its existing level, which would be more than $3 billion less than what Trump has demanded. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blamed the entire crisis on President Trump having had a “temper tantrum,” while Trump is trying to blame Democrats, contradicting his earlier claim that he alone would be responsible for the shutdown.