Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dashed any hopes of a tidy resolution to the partial government shutdown, telling reporters on Wednesday that the Senate would not consider any House bills aimed at reopening the government without Trump’s support.
Democrats, who retake House control on Thursday, announced that they intend to pass two measures that would end the shutdown, including a short-term spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that would not fund Trump’s border wall.
The Senate will not take up these proposals, McConnell said, meaning they are effectively dead in the water.
“As I said for the last few weeks, the Senate will be glad to vote on a measure that the House passes that the president will sign. But we’re not going to vote on anything else,” McConnell said, according to NBC News’s Frank Thorpe. His position appears to signal that the president would veto any bills coming out of the newly Democratic-controlled House.
McConnell’s remarks follow a meeting that Republican and Democratic congressional leaders had with the president on Wednesday afternoon, with both sides leaving the discussion as dug in as ever.
As usual, Republicans seem caught up in what President Trump will do. And right now, he doesn’t seem particularly interested in compromising.
The same goes for Democrats, with incoming presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterating the fact that Democrats won’t be giving Trump another dime for his border wall.
Democrats have proposed a plan — but it will likely die in the Senate
House Democrats are still on track to pass two measures intended to reopen the government on Thursday, even though the Senate’s Republican leadership will not be supporting them.
The first of these is a package of six bills that funds parts of the government that are not particularly controversial, including the departments of Treasury, State, and Justice. This measure would keep these agencies funded through the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in September.
The second bill would provide short-term funding for the more contentious Department of Homeland Security through February 8, separating the conflict over the border wall from the other outstanding government funding bills and kicking this fight a bit further down the road. This stopgap bill would maintain funding for DHS at current levels, which includes $1.3 billion for border security.
By announcing their plans to reopen the government, Democrats have effectively laid down the gauntlet for Republicans, who must now decide if they are willing to consider these options — or if they will continue to hold the party line even as they receive external pressure to cave. McConnell’s comments on Wednesday suggest that they are sticking to the latter for now.
Democrats increasingly have an upper hand in these negotiations since they can force through a vote on measures that the previous Republican House refused to consider. In the Senate as well, Trump will need Democratic buy-in, since any funding measure would require 60 votes to pass.
Democrats also note that Senate Republicans were previously on board with passing a short-term bill to cover DHS and argue that it would be baffling if they didn’t continue to do so. Before House Republicans persuaded Trump to renege in December, the Senate had overwhelmingly passed a funding bill to provide agencies with short-term funding. The Senate needs to re-pass any funding bills now that a new Congress is in session.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement earlier this week.
Trump, however, has already slammed Democrats’ new proposal — making it seem unlikely that congressional Republicans will get on board.
The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security – and our Country must finally have a Strong and Secure Southern Border!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019
Trump doesn’t seem like he wants to cave
Republicans’ hesitation can largely be chalked up to Trump, who has only dialed up his calls for wall money in recent days.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump met with congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle as part of a briefing on border security. Not much progress was made at the meeting, according to McConnell.
Now that Democrats have stated their position, it remains to be seen whether Trump and Republicans will bring something new to the table in terms of a compromise — or simply refuse to budge on a long-held $5 billion number for wall funding.
Thus far, despite a Washington Post op-ed from Sen. Lamar Alexander outlining a couple different paths forward on Wednesday, Republicans have yet to announce any additional counter-offers.
What is — and isn’t affected — by the shutdown
About 800,000 federal workers are affected by this shutdown, with roughly 380,000 currently furloughed from their roles and another 420,000 who are working without immediate pay.
These federal employees are expected to see the shutdown’s direct impact on January 11, the date of their next paycheck. This paycheck would cover the December 23 to January 5 pay period, which is the first to reflect the fallout from the partial government closure.
In the past, Congress has typically approved legislation that would cover back pay for employees who are working or furloughed during the shutdown, but in the interim, many are struggling to cover basic living costs like rent and credit card payments. The Office of Personnel Management did little to help matters in issuing guidance for federal employees that encouraged them to write letters to creditors about the current situation, including one it apparently posted accidentally that urged employees to consider offering practical services to landlords in lieu of rent.
Federal contractors are also expected to be disproportionately hit by this shutdown since many won’t see any form of back pay for the gaps in their wages.
Many of the services provided by the federal agencies affected by the shutdown — conservation of the National Parks and tax filing, for example — are also curtailed during this time. Mandatory programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not affected, however. Below is a list of programs that are affected by the shutdown:
What and who will keep working
- Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
- United States Postal Service
- Veterans hospitals and benefits
- Food stamps (the agency has limited funds, but the programs will continue operating in the short term)
- Active-duty military
- Border Patrol
- Air traffic control and TSA
What will be closed or could see limited operations
- National parks
- Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo (Smithsonian had some extra funding to keep the museums and parks open until January 1, but now that funding has run out)
- The IRS and tax refunds
- State Department services (passports and visas will continue to be issued, though some services could be closed)
- Environmental and food and drug inspections
Until Democrats and Republicans can come together on some kind of plan, the partial shutdown only seems like it’s going to drag on … and on.