No End in Sight for Partial US Government Shutdown
The U.S. government is partially closed until at least Thursday, and possibly for days or even weeks beyond, as President Donald Trump holds firm in demanding funds for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats remain resolutely opposed.
"The only way to stop drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into our Country is with a Wall or Barrier," Trump tweeted on Sunday.
"At midnight, President Trump decided to shut down the government over his demand for a medieval border wall," the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, tweeted. "This is senseless and cruel."
This marks the fourth time in the last five years that Congress and the White House have been unable to agree on how much money the federal government should spend and for which objectives, failing to meet a funding deadline that causes non-essential services and operations to be halted.
Last Wednesday, a shutdown seemed unlikely as the Republican-led Senate unanimously passed a temporary funding bill. The White House originally signaled support for the bill, which boosted overall border security funding but did not set aside funds for a wall. But Trump ultimately rejected it, demanding $5.7 billion for wall construction.
"Our great country must have border security … with a wall or a slat-fence or whatever you want to call it," the president said in a video message Friday.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has approved a spending bill with wall funding, but the measure does not have enough votes to pass the Senate, where Democrats have lined up in fierce opposition.
"It will never pass the Senate. Not today, not next week, not next year," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. "So Mr. President, President Trump: If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall. Plain and simple."
Most Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have rallied around Trump's demand.
"One would think that securing our homeland, controlling our borders and protecting the American people, would be bipartisan priorities … a core duty of any nation's government," Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said.
McConnell adjourned the chamber on Saturday, with no votes expected until Thursday, December 27 at the earliest.
In the past, Democrats have been flexible on additional border security funding, including for a wall, as part of a larger deal on thorny immigration issues.
Earlier this year, Democrats were willing to support wall funding in return for protections for undocumented immigrants brought to America as children a deal Trump initially hailed but later abandoned.
In 2013, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to dramatically boost border security funding as part of a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration laws. But that bill died when the Republican-led House refused to consider it.
Now Trump is demanding wall funding while so far offering nothing Democrats want in return. On Sunday, White House officials hinted that could change.
"The president has made it very clear, however, that he is willing to discuss a larger immigration solution," incoming acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on ABC's This Week program.
Throughout the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump repeatedly pledged that Mexico would pay for a border wall. Now, the White House says Mexico is contributing, indirectly, as a result of economic benefits to America stemming from a renegotiated free trade accord between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Democrats have repeatedly reminded Trump of his promise.
"We arrived at this moment because President Trump has been on a destructive two-week temper tantrum demanding the American taxpayer pony up for an expensive and ineffective border wall that the president promised Mexico would pay for," Schumer said.