US government shuts down at midnight
WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) – The US House of Representatives adjourned Friday without Congress passing a spending deal, assuring a partial government shutdown at midnight as President Donald Trump and lawmakers remain at odds over border wall funding.
Operations for several key agencies will cease starting at 12:01am Saturday (12:01pm Bangkok time), despite last-ditch talks that continued on Capitol Hill between White House officials and congressional leaders in both parties.
Trump is seeking US$5 billion for construction of a wall on the US border with Mexico. Democrats are staunchly opposed, and the absence of an elusive deal means federal funds for dozens of agencies will lapse at midnight.
It remained unclear how long the shutdown will last. But the optics are bad, as hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be either furloughed or forced to work without pay in the run up to the Christmas holiday.
Trump said he hopes the partial shutdown would not last long.
“We’re going to have a shutdown. There’s nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes,” Trump said in a video posted to his Twitter account hours before a midnight deadline to pass a stop-gap budget measure.
The House is due back in session at noon Saturday (Sunday Bangkok time). The Senate meanwhile remained open late Friday, but there were no signs yet of a breakthrough, and the chamber was quiet.
Senators told reporters that congressional leaders from both parties were negotiating behind the scenes with White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
One focus of discussion was the US$1.6 billion in border security funding that was a part of pending Senate legislation, number two Senate Republican John Cornyn said.
But conservatives in the House would likely balk at that figure.
“There’s no agreement,” congressman Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus of ultra-conservatives, told reporters as he made his way from Senate meetings to the House.
“There’s a whole lot of numbers being thrown around,” but a maximum US$1.6 billion for border security “is not acceptable.”
Trump was scheduled to fly to Florida late Friday for his Christmas break, but the White House said the president postponed the trip and would remain in Washington in an effort to salvage a spending deal.
Before meeting with Senate Republicans at the White House, Trump wrote on Twitter that “Democrats now own the shutdown,” despite having said last week that he would be “proud” to close the federal government over the issue of border security and “I’ll be the one to shut it down.”
Congressional funding for large segments of the government expires at midnight, and a shutdown would ensue if Congress, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, does not pass legislation to provide money to keep the agencies open.
“It’s possible that we’ll have a shutdown. I would say the chances are probably very good,” Trump said at the White House.
“We’re going to get a wall,” Trump added.