Posted on December 21, 2018

Trump, Democrats Show No Signs of Breaking Impasse with Shutdown Hours Away

Erica Werner, John Wagner, and and Damian Paletta, Washington, Post, December 21, 2018

President Trump and Congress were locked in an impasse Friday over Trump’s border wall, hours away from a partial government shutdown and with no apparent path to prevent one.

Trump’s preferred solution — a stop-gap spending bill containing $5.7 billion for a Mexico border wall — faced near-certain defeat in the Senate, even after the president pressured Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to change Senate rules to allow it to pass.

McConnell refused.


The $5.7 billion border wall and stopgap spending bill passed the House Thursday night, in a last gasp for Republicans there before they turn their majority over to Democrats in January.

{snip} Lawmakers had expected Trump to sign that measure, but the president abruptly changed his mind in the face of a vicious backlash from conservative lawmakers and commentators.

That turnabout provoked frustration among senators Friday, since lawmakers of both parties acknowledge Democrats have the votes to follow through on their vow to block the $5.7 billion in border funding from passing the Senate.

“This is tyranny of talk radio hosts, right? And so, how do you deal with that?” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn). “You have two talk radio hosts who completely flipped the president. And so, do we succumb to tyranny of talk radio hosts?”

Still, after meeting with Trump at the White House, McConnell called a vote aimed at advancing the $5.7 billion border wall bill, saying the legislation would not be considered controversial in more normal times.


There were signs of an effort for a last-minute deal Friday afternoon. Vice President Pence is meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), but it could not immediately be learned what the two were discussing.


Nonetheless, the procedural vote took on the air of a cliff-hanger Friday as senators of both parties waited and watched to see if it could obtain the majority vote needed to advance in a Senate split 51-49 between Republicans and Democrats. Failure of the procedural motion would kill the legislation on the spot — and if that happened it would be because of defections from lawmakers of the president’s own party.


As the hours ticked by, intense negotiations ensued. Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) voted “no,” the first Republican to do so. Democrats were pressuring Corker to do the same, and all eyes were on him because, under the math of the Senate, a “no” vote from Corker would likely kill Trump’s border bill.

First, Corker huddled with Schumer and other Democrats on the Senate floor. Then he said “let me go listen to the other side,” and headed out of the chamber to talk with Republicans.


“The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED,” Trump wrote. “If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!”


During a floor speech Friday, Schumer noted that the Senate had unanimously agreed to a spending bill earlier in the week and accused Trump of having a “temper tantrum.”

“President Trump, you will not get your wall,” Schumer said. “You’re not getting your wall today, next week or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”


In other tweets Friday, Trump urged McConnell to “fight for the Wall and Border Security as hard as he fought for anything.”

Trump also urged McConnell to “use the Nuclear Option and get it done!”

That was a reference to a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation. Trump was advocating that McConnell change the rule so that only 51 votes are required. By doing that, Republicans would be able to pass a bill without Democratic cooperation in a chamber in which Republicans hold 51 seats.


But McConnell has resisted such a change for legislation, as have a number of other Republicans, worried about the precedent it would set.


A number of federal parks and monuments are slated to close, some as soon as Saturday morning. The Securities and Exchange Commission posted a list of the services it will soon suspend, including the processing of certain business records. The Justice Department, Commerce Department and Internal Revenue Service are preparing to send thousands of people home without pay.

And Trump’s prediction that a shutdown would last “for a very long time” means that more than 100,000 federal employees risk missing at least one paycheck, and possibly more. Even the Border Patrol agents and Transportation Security Agency officials who are directed to continue working during the shutdown will not be paid until Congress funds their agencies.


Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Friday that the $5 billion in funds would cover roughly 215 miles of new wall construction in California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. In some cases, they would need private land owners to sell property to the federal government for the wall’s construction. If the property owner refuses, the government would consider seizing the property under eminent domain, a controversial tactic that would likely tie the project up in court for years.