A partial US government shutdown was almost certain to drag through the Christmas holiday after the Senate adjourned on Saturday without breaking an impasse over President Donald Trump’s demand for more funds for a border wall.
With no deal in sight on a bill to fund the government, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell sent senators home until Thursday. While he said he would call them back if a deal was struck, the decision all but guaranteed a partial shutdown would stretch at least until then.
Lawmakers will depart Washington with Trump and Senate Democrats seemingly as entrenched in their positions as ever.
Financing for about a quarter of federal government programs- including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – expired at midnight and will not be renewed until a deal is done.
Federal parks were to close and more than 400 000 federal” essential” employees in those agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be “furloughed”, meaning they are put on temporary leave.
Law enforcement efforts, border patrols, mail delivery and airport operations will keep running.
The shutdown caps a perilous week for the president, with Defense Secretary James Mattis resigning in protest at Trump’s sudden decision to pull US troops out of Syria. The planned withdrawal was widely criticized, even by senior Republicans in Congress.
The political turmoil added to fears about the economy that are plaguing investor sentiment, helping fuel continued heavy losses in the stock market on Friday.
The latest dysfunction in Washington does not bode well for bipartisan cooperation next year, when Democrats will have a stronger hand as they take control of the House of Representatives in January.
Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney huddled with the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, on Saturday afternoon, but they appeared to make little headway toward a deal to re-open the government.
“The vice president came in for a discussion and made an offer. Unfortunately, we’re still very far apart,” a spokesperson for Schumer said.
Pence offered to drop the demand for $5 billion for a border wall, substituting instead $2.1 billion, ABC News reported citing unnamed sources.
Trump put off a plan to spend Christmas at his Mar-a-Lag resort in Florida because of the shutdown, the White House said. First lady Melania Trump, who is already in Florida, is to return to Washington to spend Christmas with her husband.
In a call with reporters, a senior Trump administration official said the president was still pressing for $5 billion for a wall or barrier along the border with Mexico and other security enhancements.
Building a wall to keep migrants from entering the United States illegally was a central plank of Trump’s presidential campaign, but Democrats are vehemently opposed and have rejected his funding request.