GOP and Democrats trade blame for shut­down, but there is no deal in sight

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - By Zeke Miller and Lisa Mascaro

The par­tial govern­ment shut­down will al­most cer­tainly be handed off to a di­vided govern­ment to solve in the new year, as both par­ties traded blame last Fri­day and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sought to raise the stakes in the week­long im­passe.

As agree­ment eludes Wash­ing­ton in the waning days of the Repub­li­can mo­nop­oly on power, it sets up the first big con­fronta­tion be­tween Trump and newly em­pow­ered Democrats. Trump is stick­ing with his de­mand for money to build a bor­der wall with Mex­ico, and Democrats, who take con­trol of the House on to­mor­row, are re­fus­ing to give him what he wants.

Trump raised the stakes on Dec. 28, reis­su­ing threats to shut the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der to pres­sure Congress to fund the wall and to shut off aid to three Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries from which many migrants have fled.

“We will be forced to close the South­ern Bor­der en­tirely if the Ob­struc­tion­ist Democrats do not give us the money to fin­ish the Wall & also change the ridicu­lous im­mi­gra­tion laws that our Coun­try is sad­dled with,” he wrote in one of a se­ries of tweets.

The pres­i­dent also sig­naled he was in no rush to seek a res­o­lu­tion, wel­com­ing the fight as he heads toward his own bid for re-elec­tion in 2020. He tweeted last Thurs­day evening that Democrats may be able to block him now, “but we have the is­sue, Bor­der Se­cu­rity. 2020!”

The shut­down is forc­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral work­ers and con­trac­tors to stay home or work with­out pay, and many are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mount­ing stress from the im­passe. It also is be­gin­ning to pinch ci­ti­zens who count on cer­tain pub­lic ser­vices. Gates are closed at some na­tional parks, the govern­ment won’t is­sue new fed­eral flood in­sur­ance poli­cies and in New York, the chief judge of Man­hat­tan fed­eral courts sus­pended work on civil cases in­volv­ing U.S. govern­ment lawyers, in­clud­ing sev­eral civil law­suits in which Trump him­self is a de­fen­dant.

With an­other long hol­i­day week­end com­ing and nearly all law­mak­ers away from the Capi­tol there is lit­tle ex­pec­ta­tion of a quick fix.

“We are far apart,” White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Sanders told CBS on Dec. 28, claim­ing of Democrats, “They’ve left the ta­ble all to­gether.”

In­com­ing act­ing chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney said Democrats are no longer ne­go­ti­at­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion over an ear­lier of­fer to ac­cept less than the $5 bil­lion Trump wants for the wall. Democrats said the White House of­fered $2.5 bil­lion for bor­der se­cu­rity, but that Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence it wasn’t ac­cept­able.

“There’s not a sin­gle Demo­crat talk­ing to the pres­i­dent of the United States about this deal,” Mul­vaney said last Fri­day. Speak­ing on Fox News, he tried to drive a wedge be­tween Democrats, pin­ning the blame on Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

“My gut was that (Schumer) was re­ally in­ter­ested in do­ing a deal and com­ing to some sort of com­pro­mise. But the more we’re hear­ing this week is that it’s Nancy Pelosi who’s pre­vent­ing that from hap­pen­ing,” he said.

Mul­vaney added of the shut­down: “We do ex­pect this to go on for a while.” He said Trump can­celed his plans to travel to Florida for New Year’s.

Democrats brushed off the White House’s at­tempt to cast blame.

“For the White House to try and blame any­one but the pres­i­dent for this shut­down doesn’t pass the laugh test,” said Justin Good­man, a spokesman for Schumer.

Pelosi has vowed to pass leg­is­la­tion as soon as she takes the gavel, which is ex­pected when the new Congress con­venes, to re­open the nine shut­tered de­part­ments and dozens of agen­cies now hit by the par­tial shut­down.

“If they can’t do it be­fore Jan. 3, then we will do it,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., in­com­ing chair­man of the Rules Com­mit­tee. “We’re go­ing to do the re­spon­si­ble thing. We’re go­ing to be­have like adults and do our job.”

Pelosi spokesman Drew Ham­mill added that Democrats “are united against the Pres­i­dent’s im­moral, in­ef­fec­tive and ex­pen­sive wall” and said Democrats won’t se­ri­ously con­sider any White House of­fer un­less Trump backs it pub­licly be­cause he “has changed his po­si­tion so many times.”

“While we await the Pres­i­dent’s pub­lic pro­posal, Democrats have made it clear that, un­der a House Demo­cratic Ma­jor­ity, we will vote swiftly to re-open govern­ment on Day One,” Ham­mill said in a state­ment.

But even that may be dif­fi­cult with­out a com­pro­mise be­cause the Se­nate will re­main in Repub­li­can hands and Trump’s sig­na­ture will be needed to turn any bill into law.

“I think it’s ob­vi­ous that un­til the pres­i­dent de­cides he can sign some­thing — or some­thing is pre­sented to him — that we are where we are,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who opened the Se­nate last Thurs­day for a ses­sion that only lasted min­utes to end the year.

“Call it any­thing,” he added, “bar­rier, fence, I won’t say the ‘w’ word.”

Trump long promised that Mex­ico would pay for the wall, but Mex­ico re­fuses to do so. It was un­clear how Trump’s threat to close the bor­der would af­fect his ef­forts to rat­ify an amended North Amer­i­can free trade pact.

He has also re­peat­edly threat­ened to cut off U.S. aid to coun­tries he deems in­suf­fi­cient part­ners in com­bat­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, but has thus far failed to fol­low through with those threats. Ex­perts have warned that cut­ting off aid money to El Sal­vador, Guatemala and Hon­duras could ac­tu­ally ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem by wors­en­ing the poverty and vi­o­lence that push many migrants to leave those coun­tries.

And it is Congress, not the pres­i­dent, which ap­pro­pri­ates aid money. The White House would have to no­tify Congress if it wanted to cut or re­al­lo­cate aid, which could de­lay or com­pli­cate the process.

As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Jill Colvin and Juliet Lin­der­man con­trib­uted from Wash­ing­ton.

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