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Government stumbles toward shutdown ahead of one-year anniversary of Trump's presidency

Despite a majority in the House and the Senate, Republicans couldn't make a deal.

by Alex Thompson
Jan 20 2018, 3:50am

Let the blame games begin!

The federal government looks poised for a shutdown at midnight on the morning of Saturday, January 20th, exactly one year after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Republicans and Democrats could not come to an agreement on funding the government that voters elected them to manage.

Deployed troops will not be paid but will continue to work. Tens of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed. Many national parks and museums will be closed or will at least not provide visitor services. But federal government functions considered “essential,” such as sending Social Security checks will continue.

The negotiations continued late into the night Friday — around 10 p.m. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warned reporters, “Y’all are working late,” before ducking back into the chamber, where he was seen huddling with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York on the floor.

The vote was eventually called at 10:15 p.m.

Members from both parties ultimately voted against a continuing resolution that would have kept the government open through February 16 in order to give lawmakers more time to negotiate. Democratic senators argued that more time would not change the fundamental disagreements centering on immigration, defense spending, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

It’s also not exactly clear when Congress and the President will come to an agreement to restart the government.

The thing that is clear is that everyone wants to blame someone else for the impasse. Republicans are trying to brand it the “Schumer Shutdown.” Meanwhile, Democrats are telling anyone who will listen that Republicans are responsible because the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Trump, for his part, has said over and over again that either way, it’s definitely not his fault. "There's no way you can lay this at the feet of the president of the U.S.,” Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget and a top aide to the president, said Friday. And Trump has done his own spinning on Twitter.

At the center of the politicking are the lives of approximately 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and 8,900,000 children receiving care through CHIP.

The most divisive issue has been immigration. The majority of Democrats in the House and the Senate have demanded that any spending bill must provide a path to citizenship for the nearly 700,000 undocumented who were previously shielded from deportation by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).The Trump administration announced the end of that protection last September claiming it was against the law and gave Congress until March 5 to figure out a solution before it began deporting those people.

Trump has said he wants to protect DACA recipients but has demanded billions of dollars for his promised border wall in return, an end to family-based migrations (which he calls “chain migration), and other concessions that Democrats aren’t willing to give. When some Democrats and Republicans believed they reached a bipartisan agreement last week, Trump sunk those negotiations in a tense meeting in which he asked “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

That in turn prompted accusations of racism from Democrats who dug their heels in on demanding that DACA be part of any budget deal.

It is one of several wrenches that Trump has thrown into the negotiations in meetings and through his impulsive tweets. On Thursday morning, Trump said he opposed the very bill that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell appeared to be selling to their members.

But Republicans have insisted that DACA and immigration should be separated from the budget. They have included a reauthorization of the CHIP program along with increased domestic spending to sway Democrats to their side.

But so far, not enough Senate Democrats or Republicans have been persuaded. People will have to bend or break in order for things to change.