Short on solutions, long on blame in 2nd shutdown weekend
President Donald Trump and Democrats are trading blame for the partial government shutdown but doing little substantive talking with each other, as the disruption in federal services and public employees’ pay slogs into another weekend.
Trump upped the brinkmanship by threatening anew to close the border with Mexico to press Con- gress to cave to his demand for money to pay for a wall. Democrats vowed to pass legislation restoring the government as soon as they take control of the House on Thursday, but that won’t accomplish anything unless Trump and the Republicancontrolled Senate go along with it.
Cooped up in the White House after canceling his planned vacation to his private Florida club, Trump tweeted Saturday that he’s “in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security.” But there has been little direct contact between the sides during the stalemate, and Trump did not ask Republicans, who hold a monopoly on power in Washington for another five days, to keep Congress in session.
While House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has been spending the shutdown vacationing in Hawaii, the president did leave the White House on Friday night to join the three men at the center of the negotiations, Vice Pres- ident Mike Pence, Trump’s senior adviser and son-inlaw Jared Kushner and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, for dinner at Pence’s residence at the Naval Observatory.
As he called for Democrats to negotiate on the wall, Trump brushed off blame that his administration bore any responsibility for the recent deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody. Trump claimed the deaths were “strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally.” His comments on Twitter came as his Homeland Security secretary met with medical professionals and ordered policy changes meant to better protect children detained at the border.
Meanwhile, the effects to the public of the impasse grew as the Environmental Protection Agency, which had the money to function a week longer than some agencies, implemented its shutdown plan at midnight Friday night. EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said many of the agency’s 14,000 employees were being furloughed, while disasterresponse teams and certain other employees deemed essential would stay on the job. That includes workers needed for preventing immediate public health threats at more than 800 Superfund hazardous-waste sites.
Also running short on money: the Smithsonian Institution, which said its museums, art galleries and zoo in the capital will close starting midweek if the partial shutdown drags on.
But federal flood insurance policies will continue to be issued and renewed, in a reversal prompted by pressure from lawmakers, said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
“We are far apart,”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told
CBS on Friday.
The shutdown is forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors to stay home or work without pay.
Mulvaney said Democrats are no longer negotiating with the administration over an earlier offer by the White House to accept less than the $5 billion Trump wants for the wall.
Democrats said the White House offered to accept $2.5 billion for border security, but that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice President Mike Pence that it wasn’t acceptable. It was also not guaranteed that Trump would settle for that amount.
“There’s not a single Democrat talking to the president of the United States about this deal,” Mulvaney said Friday.
People congregate in lower Manhattan after taking the cruise to see the Statue of Liberty. Despite the government shutdown, Lady Liberty and the Museum of the American Indian, two major tourists destinations, have so far remained open.