Federal shutdown sets record as longest in U.S. history
WASHINGTON — As the partial government shutdown slipped into the record books Saturday as the longest ever, members of Congress were out of town, no negotiations were scheduled, and President Trump tweeted into the void.
He did not tip his hand on whether he will move ahead with an emergency declaration that could break the impasse, free up money for his wall without congressional approval and kick off legal challenges and a political storm over the use of that extraordinary step. A day earlier, he said he was not ready to do it “right now.”
Lawmakers are due back in Washington from their states and congressional districts in the new week.
Trump fired off a series of tweets pushing back against the notion that he doesn’t have a strategy to end what became the longest government shutdown in U.S. history when it entered its 22nd day Saturday. “Elections have consequences!” he declared, meaning the 2016 election in which “I promised safety and security” and, as part of that, a border wall.
But there was another election, in November, and the consequence of that is Democratic control of the House. They refuse to give Trump money for the wall.
Trump says he will sign legislation that has been passed by Congress to provide back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who aren’t being paid during the shutdown. Paychecks were due Friday, but many workers received stubs with zeroes.
An emergency declaration by Trump could break the stalemate by letting him use existing, unspent money to build the border wall, without needing congressional approval. Democrats oppose that step but may be unable to stop it. Many Republicans are wary, too.
Nevertheless the administration has accelerated planning for it. Officials explored diverting money from a range of accounts, including $13.9 billion given to the Army Corps of Engineers after last year’s deadly hurricanes and floods. That option appeared to lose steam after an outcry.
Other possibilities included tapping asset forfeiture funds, such as money seized from drug kingpins, according to a congressional Republican not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The White House also was eyeing military construction money, another politically difficult choice because it would take away from a backlog of hundreds of projects.
Trump has been counseled by outside advisers to move toward declaring a national emergency for the “crisis” that he says exists at the southern border. But some in the White House are trying to apply the brakes. Jared Kushner was among those opposed to the declaration, arguing to his father-in-law that pursuing a broader immigration deal was a better option.
A worker cleans a fountain on the grounds of the White House on the 22nd day of the partial government shutdown.