US Government Enters Partial Shutdown Mode after Congress Fails to Agree on Spending Bill
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The federal government ceased all non-essential functions Saturday morning as President Trump failed to reach a deal with Senate Democrats to keep the government open exactly one year into his presidency.
The primary cause: An impasse over Trump's border and immigration policies, a key campaign promise that became entangled with a measure to renew the government's spending authority.
As the midnight deadline came without a deal, the White House issued a blustery statement blasting Senate Democrats as "obstructionist losers" and singling out Trump nemesis Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, USA Today reported.
"Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands."
The White House was preparing for at least a weekend-long partial government shutdown Friday night as it became increasingly clear that the Senate could not reach the 60-vote threshold to prevent a Democratic filibuster and approve a House funding measure.
"Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border," Trump said on Twitter, just before a Senate procedural vote that would fall 10 votes short.
Trump canceled a scheduled trip to his Palm Beach resort on Friday as he met with the top Senate Democrat to try to forge a deal to keep the government open past a midnight deadline.
"He's not leaving until this is finished," said Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director.
Mulvaney said the closures would inflict less pain on citizens who use government services than the last time Congress failed to pass a spending bill in time. The 2013 shutdown closed down many government functions for 16 days until House Republicans relented on their demands that a spending bill include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Mandatory spending like Social Security and disaster relief will continue, as they have in past shutdowns. Military troops, police and other essential workers would also continue, but their pay could be held up if the shutdown lasts more than a week. Even federal workers told not to report to work would likely be paid eventually — Congress has historically voted to pay them retroactively.
But Mulvaney said the Trump administration also looked for ways to find other sources of funds to legally keep operations going.
"We want to make folks understand that it will look very different than it did under the previous administration," Mulvaney said. "The Obama administration weaponized the shutdown in 2013."
Republicans in 2013 complained that the Obama administration went further than necessary, even putting temporary fencing around the National Mall, an open, grassy park that stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
Mulvaney said he encouraged agencies to transfer funds and use other appropriations in order to remain open. At least 26 federal agencies updated their shutdown contingency plans Friday in order to make the closures less onerous.
For example: Mulvaney said national parks would remain open during a shutdown — although the trash wouldn't be picked up and park police wouldn't get paid unless Congress passes retroactive legislation. Mine safety inspections will continue, and employees will be called back next week to process paychecks for federal employees whose pay period ends Friday.
The Trump administration's approach, if carried out, would be a reversal from the so-called "Washington Monument" strategy that administrations of both parties have used since shutdowns became more common during the Reagan administration. By closing some of the most popular and visible government services, the administration can put pressure on Congress to compromise.
Trump invited Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to the Oval Office Friday for negotiations. Senate Democrats sought provisions to allow immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to remain in the country.
He added, alluding to the coming elections, "we need more Republican victories in 2018!"
Republicans control the Senate, but fall nine votes short of the 60 they need to avoid a Democratic filibuster.
The Office of Management and Budget is responsible for coordinating and enforcing a shutdown, which will send all non-essential federal workers home unless they're funded outside the annual appropriations process.
The White House itself, as a constitutional office, would remain open for business. All presidential appointees would remain on the job, with 152 of 371 West Wing employees reporting for duty. In the executive residence, 21 of the 77 employees who help run the mansion would report to work.
The president's weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort was scheduled to be a bigger spectacle than his usual golf weekends at what he calls the "Winter White House." Trump had planned to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his presidency with a party and fundraiser.
But Trump himself clearly sees political advantage in a shutdown for which he could blame Senate Democrats.
Noting that the GOP-controlled House passed a temporary funding bill Thursday night, Trump said Friday morning that "now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate — but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming?"
Democrats and some Senate Republicans object to the House-approved spending plan for a variety of reasons.
Many Democrats want it to include authorization of a program designed to block deportation of people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Trump has vowed to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unless Congress comes up with a legislative fix.
"We would like to keep the government open. What we'd really like the Democrats in the Senate to do is tell us why they don't like the bill," Mulvaney said. By including non-spending issues in the negotiations, he said, Democrats are doing the same thing they accused Republicans of when House Republicans refused to pass a spending bill that didn't include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.