Budget Stalemate Pushes US Closer to Partial Government Shutdown
There is little public indication of progress in resolving the stalemate over U.S. government spending, which could bring a partial shutdown of federal agencies at midnight Friday.
At the center of the dispute is President Donald Trump's insistence that Congress approves $5 billion in spending for his desired wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats and some Republicans oppose that plan, and Democratic leaders have offered $1.3 billion in other border security funding.
Trump used Twitter to attack the Democrats on Monday as the two sides came no closer to an agreement.
"Anytime you hear a Democrat saying that you can have good Border Security without a Wall, write them off as just another politician following the party line," the U.S. leader said on Twitter. "Time for us to save billions of dollars a year and have, at the same time, far greater safety and control!"
The top Democrat in the Senate Chuck Schumer said there is not enough support in Congress for Trump's wall, and that "no threat or temper tantrum" will change that.
"If President Trump decides to shut down the government, there is no end game in which President Trump gets the wall," Schumer said. "There is no end game for Republicans in which they can avoid their share of responsibility — overwhelming share — for a shutdown. The time to solve this problem is now."
In a meeting last week at the White House, Trump told Schumer and House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi that he would be happy to take responsibility for a government shutdown rather than give up any ground on the border wall issue.
But to avert a Friday shutdown Democrats and Republicans could reach agreement on some kind of stopgap spending plan to carry all government operations through the end of this year and into 2019.
Spending for three-fourths of the government has already been approved through next September, but the remaining bills include 2019 funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Interior Department.
Generally, agencies or offices funded by service fees, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, can continue their work, so the shutdown would not affect naturalization interviews or citizenship ceremonies.
Overseas, U.S. embassies have "essential" staff members who will continue to perform basic duties. Whether locally employed staff will be able to work is dependent on the labor laws in each individual country. In past shutdowns, individual embassies have posted on social media about any adjustments to their services and largely functioned as normal.
The State Department told VOA that information on how embassies would be affected by this shutdown is not yet available.
Experts say the Internal Revenue Service may not be able to process tax refunds. Health safety inspections could be stalled. Most employees at the U.S. space agency NASA would likely be furloughed and might not get paid for that time, although Congress usually grants pay retroactively after a shutdown is over.
Voice of America continues to broadcast, and air traffic controllers are usually expected to keep working – along with FBI agents, members of the Transportation Security Administration, and the Secret Service agents that protect the president. Like the furloughed workers, they may not see any pay until after the shutdown concludes.
In a new shutdown, about 380,000 federal workers could be furloughed, and 420,000 deemed "essential" are expected to remain on the job.