The Trump administration and Senate Democrats remain locked in a stalemate over how to end a partial government shutdown, with neither side reporting any progress or substantive talks since before Christmas.
The funding standoff, which affects about a quarter of the federal government, entered its sixth day Thursday with President Donald Trump returning to Washington around 5 a.m. from an unannounced trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq. House GOP leaders didn’t even bother to summon members back to the capital for that chamber’s pro forma session this afternoon, and while the Senate will convene at 4 p.m., senators have not been summoned to vote on any shutdown-ending package.
The senior lawmakers and their aides who are involved in the talks have gone mostly silent in recent days, and attendance at the Capitol has been sparse, with little-to-no signs of any senior Senate leaders. One GOP source on Wednesday reported no substantive talks or progress since Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., rejected an offer for $2.1 billion in border barrier funds and another $400 million for other border security tools made Saturday by Vice President Mike Pence.
Sources on both sides of the standoff gave no indication Thursday of a push to come up with something before the New Years holiday in what would amount to a sequel to the 2012 “fiscal cliff”deal that saw the Senate vote late on New Years Eve and the House send a package to then-President Barack Obama the first day of 2013. While a New Years Eve breakthrough remains possible, a resolution before the last weekend of 2018 appears unlikely.
Democratic aides said their side remains unsure just what the president might accept, saying he seems to shift positions by the hour. At the White House, the door that leads to both White House press offices remained locked at 1:30 p.m.; the press office called a travel-photo lid just before 1 p.m., sending the day’s press pool home and signaling no Thursday Trump shutdown remarks or movements are coming.
For his part, Trump criticized Democrats while on Iraqi soil over the shutdown, which was triggered by his demand for $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall or “artistically designed steel slats.” And he had not been back inside the White House for long when he tried to use furloughed federal workers as leverage in the negotiations.
“Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border,” Trump tweeted. “Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”
Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking,Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2018
With a single social media post after returning from a trip that won bipartisan praise, the polarizing president both drew criticism from Democrats and contradicted his own comments about furloughed federal employees from just two days ago.
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, an Appropriations Committee member, quickly responded with this Twitter retort: “This is all just a political game to the President. Honestly, no member of Congress — of either party — thinks of federal workers as ‘Republicans’ and ‘Democrats.’”
This is all just a political game to the President. Honestly, no member of Congress - of either party - thinks of federal workers as “Republicans” and “Democrats”. https://t.co/ABdboyaCud— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 27, 2018
“Federal employees don’t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They’re public servants,” he tweeted. “And the President is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos.”
On Christmas, the president insisted the soon-to-be furloughed federal workers overwhelmingly support his border barrier plan. That would mean most of them would have to be GOP voters, which he contradicted Thursday morning in clear language.
A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll showed 65 percent of surveyed Republicans want Trump to hold firm on his border wall demand, while only 21 percent of Democrats do.