A Possible Government Shutdown? Here’s Where Things Stand

A Possible Government Shutdown? Here’s Where Things Stand

Funding for nine federal departments and several agencies is set to expire at midnight Friday. For now, hopes of avoiding a shutdown seem faint.

People toured the Capitol Rotunda on Friday.CreditCreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

Hours away from a partial government shutdown, here’s where things stand — and how we got here.

Let’s recap.

On Wednesday night, after a contentious day of negotiating and a round of cheerful Christmas carols from a group of Senate Democrats, the Senate passed a stopgap spending bill that would fund the remaining parts of the government through Feb. 8.

While the bill would keep the government fully functioning, it does not include money for President Trump’s beloved wall on the southern border. Lawmakers and aides went home optimistic that Thursday morning, the House would pass that bill and send it to the president’s desk.

Regretfully for those with holiday plans, that is not what happened.

There were hours of headlines about an apparent presidential retreat on building a wall and angst from hard-line Republicans over their last opportunity to secure funding before a Democratic majority. Then the president informed House Republicans on Thursday that he would refuse to sign the Senate measure.

The House merged the Senate’s stopgap spending bill with about $ 5.7 billion in funding for the wall and close to $ 8 billion in disaster relief funding.

It passed in the House, 217 to 185, but it is considered dead on arrival in the Senate, multiple aides said, where Democrats will most likely block the wall money.

What will happen after the Senate says no is unclear. Senators will reconvene Friday at noon.

Chances of a shutdown grow with each minute.

As the president likes to say, we’ll see. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, told reporters that magical things can happen around Christmas.

(But really, it’s not looking good.)

In a series of early morning Twitter posts on Friday, Mr. Trump blamed Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, for not fighting as hard as he could for the wall and branded a potential government shutdown, a “Democrat Shutdown!”

Mr. Trump also reviewed his case for building a wall.

“The fact is there is nothing elses’s that will work, and that has been true for thousands of years,” Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet. “It’s like the wheel, there is nothing better.” He also said technological solutions at the border would only work in conjunction with a wall. “I know tech better than anyone,” he said.

Border security has become a game of semantics on Capitol Hill. Is it for a wall with a “big, beautiful door,” as Mr. Trump once said? Is it for staffing and fencing repairs? Is it for “aesthetically pleasing steel slats,” as the president now likes to say?

The Senate initially passed a bipartisan bill that allocated $ 1.6 billion for fencing and border security, not to be used for a concrete structure. House Republicans are calling for $ 5 billion to be used for all forms of border security — including a wall.

Pick your own definition, and thus, pick your side.

The members of the 115th Congress would very much like to go home for the holidays (and, in some cases, into the warm embrace of post-congressional life).

Some, bless their hearts, already have.

Even though House lawmakers were fresh off a six-day weekend, more than 70 lawmakers from both parties were not present for votes on Thursday. This included the defeated, the retired and the — well, they’re just not here.

And several senators, already on their way out of Washington, were now being summoned back to deal with the House measure.

One lawmaker, Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, tweeted a photo at 8:08 p.m. Thursday, detailing his quick turnaround: Virginia to Honolulu — and back to Virginia.

There is a strong possibility, however, that some will not heed the call.

As Capitol Hill, Washington and most foreign leaders have come to accept, the only person capable of predicting the president’s behavior is, well, the president. (And that in itself gets murky.)

Over the past 12 days, Mr. Trump has said he would “own” a shutdown, asserted that the funding was not for a wall and claimed that the billions of dollars for wall funding could be found elsewhere. He has also made the dubious claim that Mexico would pay for it, through higher economic growth spurred by a new North American trade deal that has yet to be ratified.

And in the past, he has threatened to veto spending bills, then angrily signed them anyway.

The president was also expected to head to his Florida estate on Friday for a 16-day vacation, but White House officials indicated that if the government shut down, he wouldn’t go anywhere.

Without any action from lawmakers, funding expires for nine federal departments and a number of agencies. The Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury Departments will all shutter.

More than 420,000 people will work without pay and an additional 380,000 workers will be furloughed.

Read more here.

Emily Cochrane is a reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, covering Congress. She was raised in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida. @ESCochrane


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