No end in sight for long­est-ever shutdown

Trump steps back from emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN WAG­NER, ERICA WERNER, DAMIAN PALETTA AND JOSH DAWSEY

Pres­i­dent Trump cast fresh doubt Fri­day on whether he would de­clare a national emer­gency to build a wall along the south­ern bor­der, leav­ing law­mak­ers wait­ing for the pres­i­dent’s next move as the gov­ern­ment shutdown was poised to be­come the long­est in U.S. his­tory.

“What we’re not look­ing to do right now is national emer­gency,” Trump said Fri­day af­ter­noon, sur­rounded by law en­force­ment of­fi­cials at a White House round­table. “I’m not go­ing to do it so fast,” he said.

Trump re­asserted his right to build bor­der walls via an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion, a move that would by­pass a dead­locked Congress in which Democrats have blocked any new wall money. But he said he wanted to give law-

mak­ers more time to act and did not of­fer a timetable for a decision.

The com­ments marked a shift from ear­lier Fri­day when Trump ap­peared on the brink of declar­ing a national emer­gency. The pres­i­dent has said repeatedly in re­cent days that he might do so, and his ad­min­is­tra­tion had asked agen­cies to begin prepa­ra­tions.

Law­mak­ers from both par­ties had spec­u­lated that a national emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion could clear the way for an end to the shutdown that, at 22 days long Satur­day, would be­come the length­i­est the na­tion has ever en­dured.

Be­fore the shutdown and since, Trump has floated nu­mer­ous strate­gies and po­ten­tial solutions, only to re­verse him­self within days, hours or min­utes — mak­ing it un­clear whether his stance Fri­day would hold or for how long.

But for now, Trump’s ap­par­ent re­treat on the emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion leaves the im­passe in place, with no ob­vi­ous way to re­solve it and no real ef­forts un­der­way to do so.

The Sen­ate ad­journed for the week­end on Thurs­day and House law­mak­ers left town Fri­day, with no new ne­go­ti­a­tions sched­uled.

Large parts of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment have been with­out fund­ing since Dec. 22, and the par­tial shutdown’s ef­fects have mul­ti­plied as the lapse has dragged on. Fri­day marked the first missed pay­check for many of the ap­prox­i­mately 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees who are fur­loughed or work­ing with­out com­pen­sa­tion. And the White House has scram­bled to find ways to keep the par­tially shut­tered gov­ern­ment functioning, a rapidly shift­ing and of­ten im­pro­vised process that has seen the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­verse past prece­dent and en­ter into legally murky ter­ri­tory.

Trump’s seem­ing am­biva­lence over an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion mir­rors dis­agree­ment within his own party.

Sen. Lind­sey O. Gra­ham (R-S.C.) said he met with Trump on Fri­day and emerged from the meet­ing with a clear di­rec­tive for the pres­i­dent.

“Mr. Pres­i­dent, de­clare a national emer­gency now,” Gra­ham said in a state­ment. “Build a wall now.”

But Trump has got­ten sharp push­back from the idea, even from Re­pub­li­cans.

“I think the pres­i­dent should not do it,” Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley (R-Iowa) told re­porters Fri­day. “I think as a mem­ber of Congress I ought to be very self­ish about the con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers that we have to ap­pro­pri­ate money. I think it might be a bad prece­dent.”

Other prom­i­nent Re­pub­li­cans on Fri­day ex­pressed alarm that Trump might try to di­vert funds from dis­as­ter-re­cov­ery projects in places such as Texas and use it to build the bor­der wall. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said he vig­or­ously op­posed us­ing any of the money that had been ap­pro­pri­ated by Congress to clean up dam­age caused by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey in 2017.

“We worked very hard to make sure that the vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, their con­cerns are ad­dressed and Texas is able to re­build. And I think we are all to­gether on that,” Cornyn said.

Trump’s lawyers have also pri­vately warned the pres­i­dent he could be on shaky foot­ing with an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss pri­vate White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

With a White House decision in flux, Congress made no progress to­ward a deal.

The Demo­cratic-led House held its fi­nal votes of the week Fri­day, in­clud­ing on a mea­sure to en­sure that fed­eral work­ers who are fur­loughed or work­ing with­out com­pen­sa­tion re­ceive back pay once the gov­ern­ment re­opens. The bill, which passed the Sen­ate on Thurs­day, now goes to Trump for his sig­na­ture. But it would do noth­ing to di­rect im­me­di­ate help to the 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees who are go­ing un­paid, and the thou­sands of fed­eral con­trac­tors who have been im­pacted by the shutdown may never re­coup their losses.

The House also passed an­other bill that would re­open more shut­tered gov­ern­ment de­part­ments — but it had already been declared dead on ar­rival in the GOP-con­trolled Sen­ate be­cause of a veto threat from Trump.

Ab­sent mean­ing­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions, Trump and top Democrats have traded in­creas­ingly acer­bic pub­lic crit­i­cisms.

After an event to for­mally sign off on the leg­is­la­tion to en­sure back pay to fur­loughed fed­eral work­ers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked about Trump’s com­ments sug­gest­ing an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion may not be im­mi­nent after all. “Let’s give him time to think it through,” Pelosi said. “Oh, think? Did I say ‘ think’? Let’s see what hap­pens next.”

Pelosi has said that Democrats do not feel any po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to give in to Trump’s wall de­mands, say­ing in­stead that sup­port­ers were urg­ing the party to hold the line.

“I’m a mother of five, grand­mother of nine — I know a tem­per tantrum when I see one,” she said.

The jab echoed crit­i­cisms from Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), in­clud­ing his con­tention that Trump had a “tantrum” when he abruptly walked out of a White House ne­go­ti­a­tion Wed­nes­day and dis­missed it as a “to­tal waste of time.”

At his event Fri­day, Trump re­buffed Pelosi’s re­peated claims that a wall is “im­moral,” say­ing, “What’s im­moral is what’s go­ing on” at the bor­der, where Trump has fo­cused on il­le­gal drugs and crim­i­nals en­ter­ing the United States.

Trump said that as long as the wall is built, Democrats could call it any­thing they want, sug­gest­ing they dub it “peaches.”

“The Democrats have to help us. . . . It will take us 15 min­utes . . . and then we will get onto much big­ger im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” said Trump, who claimed repeatedly through­out his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that the wall would be paid for by Mex­ico, an as­ser­tion he still pe­ri­od­i­cally makes, though with­out a clear ex­pla­na­tion of how that would hap­pen.

House Re­pub­li­cans ac­cused Democrats of go­ing through the mo­tions Fri­day by pass­ing the lat­est of four bills to re­open parts of the gov­ern­ment un­re­lated to bor­der se­cu­rity. The bill taken up Fri­day would re­open the In­te­rior De­part­ment, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, the National Park Ser­vice and sev­eral other agen­cies.

The bill passed 240 to 179, with 10 Re­pub­li­cans join­ing all Democrats in the cham­ber sup­port­ing it.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called the ex­er­cise “a cha­rade” be­cause Sen­ate lead­ers had already in­di­cated they did not plan to vote on the bill and Trump has said he would not sign it.

“If any­body thinks this is ac­com­plish­ing any­thing, it’s not,” Cole said.

“We’ve wasted the week be­cause our friends can’t sit down and split the dif­fer­ence,” he added. “I don’t think any­one looks par­tic­u­larly good in this. . . . This will end an­other sad week in this cham­ber.”

The bill to en­sure work­ers re­ceive back pay passed 411 to 7. All those who op­posed it were Re­pub­li­cans.

Amid the stale­mate, the White House has been lay­ing the ground­work for a dec­la­ra­tion of a national emer­gency to build Trump’s bor­der wall, eye­ing var­i­ous pots of un­used money, in­clud­ing funds in the Army Corps of En­gi­neers bud­get that had been di­rected to­ward flood-con­trol projects in areas af­fected by re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

Democrats had con­demned the ap­proach, although it is no longer clear whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion will seek it.

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner, Democrats from Vir­ginia, both ob­jected to the use of mil­i­tary fund­ing for the wall while speak­ing with re­porters Fri­day after a meet­ing in Alexan­dria with fur­loughed work­ers.

Kaine, who sits on the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee and is the only U.S. se­na­tor with a child on ac­tive duty, said mil­i­tary con­struc­tion dol­lars are used for things such as re­mov­ing lead from the wa­ter sup­ply in troops’ hous­ing and hard­en­ing over­seas bases to bet­ter re­sist a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

“Let’s face it,” Warner said. “This is an at­tempt to ba­si­cally go around the law, to go around the rules. That’s why you even see push­back from some in his own party.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­selló also strongly ob­jected to the idea of di­vert­ing money in­tended for hur­ri­cane mit­i­ga­tion.

JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST

Pres­i­dent Trump pauses Fri­day dur­ing a prayer at a White House bor­der-se­cu­rity gath­er­ing.

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