Capitol a Land of Confusion as Shutdown Approaches

House members not even sure if they are free to go home

A worker pushes a Senate subway car Friday morning as the Senate considers the House passed continuing resolution to fund the government on January 19, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A sense of general confusion gripped the Capitol on Friday as the Senate argued over the way forward on avoiding a government shutdown and House members were unclear about whether they were supposed to go home or not. 

“I just don’t think they are in a position to tell us anything right now,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said, adding that there haven’t been any instructions from GOP leaders about whether members can leave following votes. 

A message from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said that after the votes shortly after 11 a.m., “These are the last votes expected in the House for the day and week.” Many members were left to figure out exactly what that meant. 

Rep. Mark Sanford says he hasn’t heard anything from GOP leadership about whether members should stay in town or go back to their districts. “It’s very quiet on that front. It’s like being back in the military — hurry up and wait,” the South Carolina Republican said.

That didn’t stop some members from hitting the highway. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, said, when explaining he is leaving the Capitol following the last House votes on Friday.

McConnell, Durbin Make Their Case As Shutdown Looms

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer says Democrats aren’t being sent home following today’s vote series, which was supposed to be the last before a week-long district work period. “We want to get this resolved.”


The House voted Thursday night to approve a four-week continuing resolution, and while the Senate voted to proceed to the measure, the shutdown stare-down has continued because there are enough votes to block it in that chamber. 

When asked if there is a “Plan B” in the works to prevent a government shutdown, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said “we’re still talking.”

“It’s all a futility it seems to me,” the Texas Republican said of the possibility of an even shorter-term continuing resolution than the House-passed four-week stopgap measure.

The White House trotted out Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (who is splitting his days as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short to talk shutdown prep and say the president is engaged in discussions to avoid a shutdown on what would be the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. 

“We do not want a shutdown,” Mulvaney said. “The president is actively working right now to try to prevent a shutdown.”

Short said he and Mulvaney are headed back to Capitol Hill after briefing reporters to continue lobbying for support on the stopgap measure.


Jennifer Shutt, Joe Williams and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.


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