SHUT­DOWN TAKES HOLD

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY PAUL KANE, DAVID WEIGEL AND PHILIP RUCKER

Mitch McCon­nell said the Se­nate would shut­ter un­til Thurs­day, amid a stale­mate over border wall fund­ing.

Parts of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment are set to re­main closed through much of next week as the Se­nate shut­tered Satur­day for Christ­mas amid a stale­mate with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump over border wall fund­ing.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., an­nounced that his cham­ber would not re­turn to leg­isla­tive busi­ness un­til Thurs­day, which means many fed­eral agen­cies will re­main closed un­til later next week at the ear­li­est and hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral work­ers will be left in limbo about their sta­tus.

“Lis­ten, any­thing can hap­pen,” McCon­nell said. “We’re pulling for an agree­ment that can get 60 votes in the Se­nate and a ma­jor­ity in the House.”

The de­ci­sion came af­ter Trump had a lunch with con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans and dis­patched Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence to the Capi­tol to make the lat­est of­fer to Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. That meet­ing ended af­ter 30 min­utes with no res­o­lu­tion.

“Still talk­ing,” Pence told re­porters as he and act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney left Schumer’s of­fice; the sen­a­tor had said he would “re­mind” the vice pres­i­dent that Democrats would not sign off on fund­ing for a border wall.

“The vice pres­i­dent came in for a dis­cus­sion and made an of­fer. Un­for­tu­nately, we’re still very far apart,” a spokesman from Schumer’s of­fice said.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed to re­open the gov­ern­ment shortly af­ter Democrats take over the House, when she is likely to be­come speaker. “Un­til Pres­i­dent Trump can pub­licly com­mit to a bi­par­ti­san res­o­lu­tion, there will be no agree­ment be­fore Jan­uary,” Pelosi wrote in a “dear col­league” let­ter to House Democrats.

The ef­fects of the par­tial shut­down, which started just af­ter mid­night Satur­day, will be felt more broadly Wed­nes­day, the first day the fed­eral work­force is ex­pected to re­turn.

The Capi­tol was quiet Satur­day morn­ing, af­ter law­mak­ers went home Fri­day evening with Congress still at an im­passe over Trump’s de­mands for bil­lions of dol­lars to build a wall along the U.S.Mex­ico border.

Both the House and Se­nate opened at noon Satur­day, but there were no signs of progress in ne­go­ti­a­tions, which had only been hap­pen­ing at the staff level since a brief hud­dle late Fri­day af­ter­noon with Pence and Schumer.

Schumer and McCon­nell spoke on the floor Satur­day, with both blam­ing the other party for the shut­down and nei­ther show­ing any sign of giv­ing in.

Few law­mak­ers were in the Capi­tol on Satur­day, and no votes were sched­uled in ei­ther cham­ber. Many law­mak­ers took off Fri­day night to re­turn to their home states as they awaited word of the talks, hav­ing been as­sured that they will get 24 hours no­tice be­fore any vote oc­curs to re­open the closed por­tions of the gov­ern­ment.

The fun­da­men­tal stale­mate re­mains in place: Trump says he will not ac­cept leg­is­la­tion un­less it con­tains about $5 bil­lion in fund­ing for his border wall, and Democrats have the votes to block any wall money from go­ing through Congress.

Af­ter the lunch meet­ing with Trump, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., sug­gested Pence would make a new of­fer to Schumer about wall fund­ing, but Demo­cratic aides said the vice pres­i­dent pre­sented noth­ing fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent than the pre­vi­ous de­mands.

Trump sees this round of ne­go­ti­a­tions as his best, and pos­si­bly last, to ex­act wall fund­ing from Congress, as Democrats are set to take over the House in Jan­uary af­ter big wins in the midterm elec­tions.

The pres­i­dent wrote on Twit­ter on Satur­day morn­ing that “We are ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Democrats on des­per­ately needed Border Se­cu­rity … but it could be a long stay.”

Now, that grid­lock is af­fect­ing large parts of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Fund­ing for nu­mer­ous agen­cies, in­clud­ing those that op­er­ate na­tional parks, home­land se­cu­rity, law en­force­ment, tax col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion, ex­pired at mid­night. Close to 400,000 fed­eral work­ers are ex­pected to be sit­ting at home with­out pay un­til a deal is reached, and nu­mer­ous ser­vices will be halted in that time, with the ef­fects broad­en­ing the longer the fund­ing lapse lasts.

Dozens of na­tional parks and mon­u­ments were closed Satur­day. The Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion has posted a list of the ser­vices it will soon sus­pend, in­clud­ing the pro­cess­ing of cer­tain busi­ness records. The Jus­tice Depart­ment, Com­merce Depart­ment and In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice are pre­par­ing to keep thou­sands of work­ers home with­out pay.

Em­ploy­ees at those agen­cies deemed es­sen­tial will con­tinue work­ing with­out pay, in­clud­ing many Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion work­ers deal­ing with the in­flux of hol­i­day trav­el­ers. Af­ter ev­ery pre­vi­ous shut­down, Congress has passed leg­is­la­tion to retroac­tively pay em­ploy­ees.

The rest of the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing the mil­i­tary, is funded through Septem­ber by sep­a­rate leg­is­la­tion Congress and Trump passed ear­lier this year.

Se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials Satur­day put the onus on Se­nate Democrats to put forth op­tions that in­clude $5 bil­lion for Trump’s promised border wall, say­ing it was a must for any deal.

“The pres­i­dent came into of­fice promis­ing a wall along the south­ern border. We couldn’t just let there be no wall,” an of­fi­cial said on a brief­ing call with re­porters. Un­der the terms of the call, the of­fi­cials spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

When a re­porter re­minded the of­fi­cials that Trump cam­paigned on a prom­ise that Mex­ico would pay for con­struc­tion of the wall, the of­fi­cials said the ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to be­lieve Mex­ico ul­ti­mately would pay for the wall but would not en­ter­tain ques­tions about how that might be. The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment has said it would not fund the wall.

ALEX BRAN­DON AP

Jamie Par­rish of Min­neapo­lis takes a selfie in front of the closed sign at the Na­tional Ar­chives on Satur­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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