The U.S. government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding became the longest in the modern era as it stretched into its 22nd day Saturday with no end in sight.
Negotiations are at a standstill and no more talks are scheduled for the weekend or early next week. The White House scuttled efforts to reach a deal on Capitol Hill on Thursday, and Trump’s budget team is drawing up contingency plans for a shutdown that extends through the end of February, according to an administration official.
About 800,000 federal workers missed their pay for the first time Friday — at least some receiving pay stubs for $0.00 — as unions sued the government for requiring their members to work without pay. At least one airport planned to close a concourse as absences rose among security screeners who haven’t received their wages. Trump said Friday that he planned to sign a bill guaranteeing that federal employees will be given back pay once the government reopens.
Democrats and the president remain at loggerheads, with party leaders saying they won’t agree to fund any kind of wall or barrier and Trump insisting he won’t agree to reopen the government until the wall is funded.
Some Trump allies have been encouraging him to declare a national emergency and redirect other funds to begin building the wall. But Trump said Friday that he wasn’t rushing to use that option, which would be challenged in court and, if not overturned, establish a precedent expanding the power of future Democratic presidents.
“I’m not going to do it so fast because this is something Congress should do,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with law enforcement officials who favor the wall. On Saturday, with Congress adjourned for the weekend, Trump said in the first of several tweets on the shutdown that “Democrats should come back to Washington and work to end the Shutdown.” Lawmakers adjourned for the weekend but will return to Washington on Monday.
While Trump on Saturday three times cited a “humanitarian crisis” at the border, he also tied the debate to his 2016 campaign promise: “Part of that promise was a Wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences!”
The shutdown on Saturday exceeded the 1995-1996 funding lapse, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House. That ended when congressional Republicans agreed to a short-term funding bill for closed agencies that was later extended.
The last meeting between Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leaders ended with Trump walking out. After Pelosi said she wouldn’t provide funding for a border wall even if Trump reopened the government, the president said “bye bye,” in his words, and left the room — a signature negotiating tactic for the former real estate developer and reality TV show star.
Since that meeting both sides have blamed each other. The White House has contended that Democrats are refusing to negotiate, while Democrats accuse Trump of forcing government workers to go unpaid as leverage to get $5.7 billion for a wall that voters don’t want.
An attempt Thursday by moderate Republican senators to broker a deal that would have traded immigration protections for undocumented “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. as children in return for wall money collapsed after Vice President Mike Pence rejected it.
One close Trump ally, Republican Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said Friday that he believed Trump was getting closer to declaring an emergency. “I think we’re talking days, not weeks,” the chairman and founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said. “I think he’s got to do it.”
After meeting with Trump on Friday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it was clear to him and the president that “Democrats don’t want to make a deal and will never support border wall/barriers.” The only option, Graham tweeted, was for Trump to “declare a national emergency NOW.”
House Democrats as well as a smattering of Republicans voted this week in favor of bills to reopen portions of the government. But the GOP-controlled Senate has refused to consider the measures unless Trump agrees to sign them. The White House has said the president will veto the funding legislation unless his demands for a border wall are met.
In the Democrats’ weekly address, Representative Scott Peters, who represents a district in San Diego County, California, outlined border security measures such as radar and surveillance via drones, and said “let’s re-open the government and talk about these ideas.”
Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana has floated a plan for Trump to tap monies seized from drug cartels to pay for the construction of a border wall. Those civil asset forfeiture funds, held by the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, generate billions of dollars annually, he said. Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, has also suggested using that money or other discretionary fees.
“Last we looked in one of the two funds there’s about $1.2 billion of unobligated dollars,” Cassidy said Saturday on Fox News. “This is money that would otherwise have gone to the cartels. It won’t be the Mexican government [paying for the wall], won’t be the Mexican people, it’ll be the Mexican cartels.”