America is closed
Vote on funding bill fails in the Senate, virtually assuring a US government shutdown to coincide with Donald Trump celebrating his first year in the Oval Office.
AUnited States government shutdown seemed guaranteed last night after a short-term spending bill failed to advance due to opposition from Democrats and some Republicans.
The bill to keep the government open through February 16 collapsed after a vote to end debate failed to garner the necessary 60 votes in the Senate.
With a midnight deadline approaching, lawmakers had not agreed to an alternative plan, and it was not clear what they would do next.
Republicans had insisted on a four-week funding extension, which included a six-year authorisation for the Children’s Health Insurance Programme and delayed several healthcare taxes. Senate Democrats had called for a funding extension of several days that would allow more time for negotiations over the legal status of immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, known as ‘‘Dreamers’’.
It was unclear what Congress might do over the weekend to reopen the government.
House members were dismissed from Capitol Hill but told to remain in Washington in case of further votes.
Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said in a radio interview that he found it ‘‘kind of cool’’ that his position would allow him to officially close the government, predicted that the conflict would be resolved before agencies reopened on Monday.
‘‘I think there’s a deal in the next 24 hours,’’ he said.
The last shutdown, in 2013, lasted for 16 days as Republicans tried unsuccessfully to force changes to the Affordable Care Act. A government shutdown causing employee furloughs has never occurred under unified party control of Congress and the White House.
Yesterday’s Senate vote followed a day lacking the tense discussions and spirited closeddoor meetings that typically precede important legislative deadlines. While US President Donald Trump met with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer about a possible deal, their discussions produced no resolution, and Trump quickly reaffirmed his support for the GOP spending plan to keep government agencies open for 30 days.
In a tweet, Trump said the situation was ‘‘not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border’’ and claimed Democrats ‘‘want’’ a shutdown.
For most of the day, most senators remained out of the loop and unsure of what to expect.
In the quiet hallways of the Capitol, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham shuttled between the offices of Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, trying to secure support for a spending bill to last through February 8. The talks were ‘‘on the 10-yard line on a lot of issues’’, Graham said.
At the same time, as the evening wore on, several Democrats said they would support the GOP bill.
Senators Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Joe Manchin III (West
Every year the Republicans plan the January schedule so that they can go to Davos. They want to spend next week hobnobbing with their elitist friends instead of honouring their responsibilities to the American people. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Virginia), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) and Doug Jones (Alabama), all of whom face tough battles for reelection in states that supported Trump, voted to keep the government open.
Before the vote, most Democrats seemed to view a shutdown as inevitable.
‘‘My guess is it probably won’t go much past the first of the week, in which case the disruption won’t be particularly severe,’’ said John Yarmuth, of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.
He predicted a solution to keep the government operating for a short period ‘‘within a few days’’.
‘‘It’s going to be a function of whether (House Speaker) Paul Ryan is willing to actually demonstrate some leadership and figure out what his conference is willing to compromise on, and the same with Mitch,’’ he said.
On the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch let his frustration with the stalemate show in an unusually frank comment.
‘‘This is the greatest country in the world, but we do have some really stupid people representing it from time to time,’’ the Utah Republican said. ‘‘I probably have gone too far saying that, but it’s true, and it’s disappointing to me.’’
Trump and the Republicans, who control all levers of government, face the possibility of a shutdown on the first anniversary of his inauguration.
About 150 protesters gathered outside the Capitol to hear Democrats promise not to back any spending deal that did not grant legal status to ‘‘Dreamers’’.
‘‘This is a movement," said California Senator Kamala Harris. ‘‘We’re going to have some good days, and we’re going to have some bad days. And like every movement that has allowed our country to progress, we are going to have to fight.’’
Preparations for a shutdown had taken place throughout the day.
The Trump administration drew up plans to keep national parks and monuments open despite a shutdown, as a way to blunt public anger, and congressional staffers received formal notice that they may be furloughed starting at midnight.
At the White House, Trump delayed his departure for his Mara-Lago resort in Florida. The president had intended to leave Washington ahead of a lavish celebration of his first year in office that is planned for today.
With the House scheduled to be out of session next week, several leaders have planned trips abroad. Vice-President Mike Pence will travel to Israel and Egypt, Ryan will visit Iraq, while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, of North Carolina, will accompany Trump to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort village of Davos.
McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said the Davos trip would be cancelled in the event of a government shutdown, but that did not stop House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from criticising the trip.
‘‘Every year the Republicans plan the January schedule so that they can go to Davos. They want to spend next week hobnobbing with their elitist friends instead of honouring their responsibilities to the American people,’’ she said.