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Saturday, January 20, 2018
Trump, GOP Leaders REFUSING Democratic DEMANDS as SHUTDOWN Continues
Robert Costa, Paul Kane, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck
BREAKING: McConnell schedules early Monday vote to reopen government
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced plans for a vote at 1 a.m. Monday on a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8. The move appeared designed to force Democrats to either agree to reopen the government without concessions on immigration and other issues, or to vote again for a government shutdown, which Republicans believe will hurt Democrats. The government shut down early Saturday morning after a four-week spending bill failed to gain enough votes to advance in the Senate.
This story will be updated.
President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) remained in regular contact Saturday afternoon about a possible solution to the government shutdown that began at midnight, the first time a furlough of federal employees has occurred under single party control of Congress and the White House.
The two leaders have been talking by phone throughout the day and are prepared to meet in person, if necessary, according to a senior Senate aide, Earlier, two sources familiar with the plan said Trump and McConnell would meet in person, but instead they have kept their game planning to phone discussions, which is McConnell’s own preferred method of negotiations.
So far, Trump, McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) have struck a defiant tone, refusing to consider any of the Democratic demands on immigration or other issues until there is a bipartisan agreement to reopen the federal government.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen moderate lawmakers met Saturday afternoon in the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) to try to advance a solution, according to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Collins led a similar bipartisan group in 2013 that worked to resolve that year’s 16-day shutdown.
Moderates are “trying to find a pathway forward,” Manchin said.
Republican and Democratic party leaders continued to grapple with how to strike a compromise that would reopen federal agencies before the beginning of the workweek.
Sensing that they have the upper hand, top House Republicans said they had ruled out negotiating on a major Democratic priority — immigration policy — until the shutdown ends.
“Senate Democrats shut down this government, and now Senate Democrats need to open this government back up,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a midday speech.
The shutdown blame game
Lawmakers have been busy pointing fingers at who's to blame for the impasse.(Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
Trump, who faced a shutdown on the first anniversary of his inauguration, canceled plans to visit his resort Palm Beach, Fla., for a weekend of celebrations. His scheduled trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this coming week was also up in the air, according to an aide.
As Saturday afternoon began, a proposal to fund the government for three weeks remained locked in its own stalemate. While House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters that his caucus supports the idea from Senate Republicans, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said her members would not support it until the parties agree to “terms of engagement” on a longer-term spending plan to last the rest of the fiscal year.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a go-between in discussions between Senate Republicans and Democrats, tried to build momentum for a plan to fund the government through Feb. 8. The key, he argued, is to ensure the Senate moves to an immigration debate with an open amendment process immediately after that date.
“I’m confident we can find a solution to Border Security/DACA once we start the process,” he said in a statement.
The White House said it supports the Feb. 8 plan, eliminating a potentially significant hurdle to its enactment. But simmering tensions between Trump aides and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said Saturday that negotiating with the president was like negotiating with “Jell-O,” underscored the delicacy of the moment.
Schumer and Trump had met privately on Friday afternoon, giving some lawmakers hope their discussion would advance a deal to avoid a shutdown altogether.
Schumer left the meeting buoyed, telling others that Trump seemed willing to strike a deal on a days-long funding extension in exchange for concessions such as border wall funding. But by midnight, he complained to his members that Trump had suddenly reneged on the possibility.
The White House told a different story. Briefing reporters at the White House on Saturday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney disputed Schumer’s claim that he offered Trump his desired border wall funding during their meeting.
“Mr. Schumer has to up his game and be more honest with the president of the United States if we are going to be seeing progress,” Mulvaney said.
Schumer spokesman Matt House fired back on Twitter that Mulvaney was not present for the meeting was “not telling the truth” about what happened.
Trump began the day by tweeting that “Democrats wanted to give me a nice present” on the anniversary of his inauguration. He blamed Democrats for “holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”
One person in touch with the White House and close to Trump said that the president’s inner circle increasingly believes that a bill funding the government through Feb. 8 has the votes to pass, but no one believes such a proposal is ready for a vote this weekend.
During a private morning meeting, Ryan told members, many of them dressed in casual weekend garb, to not go home and to stick close. The caucus appeared strongly unified, a major shift from the early hours of the 2013 shutdown, when establishment Republicans were furious at conservatives for driving them toward a shutdown over the Affordable Care Act.
Still, Republican demands to reopen the government before restarting immigration talks could quickly become yet another stalemate.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a lead advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, said the dispute could be quickly resolved if Republicans hold votes on immigration legislation — something many members of the GOP said they have ruled out.
“At this point I’m not supporting any [short-term spending bill] that doesn’t include a fix” to immigration policy, Gutierrez said. “If that fix includes a wall, I’m ready.”
Trump announced in September that DACA will end on March 5 and called on Congress to enact a permanent solution — a key sticking point in the ongoing spending talks.
Other Republicans fretted that the party will face intense pressure from voters given that it has total control of Washington.
“We all know what has to happen here. We all need a budget agreement, and you’re not going to get a budget agreement until there’s an agreement on DACA and border security,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). “We also have to come to a realization that a bipartisan DACA agreement is not going to secure a majority of the majority in the House, so my leadership is going to have to allow a vote on that.”
In 10 days, Trump is due to deliver his first State of the Union address. Democrats were convinced Saturday that the optics of the president trying to speak about his accomplishments in the midst of a government shutdown would be devastating for the GOP.
“It’d be a terribly embarrassing moment for him — the government would be shut down when he’s supposed to be talking about how he’s going to run the government for the next year,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) “That’s the least of our concerns, whether he’s embarrassed or not.”
Republicans’ opinions were mixed.
“It’s a horrible setting for the State of the Union, there’s no doubt about that,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah). He said he would argue to delay the speech if the government is still in a shutdown.
But Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), one of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, said that “the Democrats would be in full, outright panic mode that the nation is tuned in to watch President Trump deliver a speech where every other sentence speaks to the Senate shutdown.”
With Trump and lawmakers still at an impasse, Americans began to feel the effects of the shutdown early Saturday.