U.S. Government partially shuts down for third time in year

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The U.S. Capitol Building Dome is seen before the sun rises in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

White House negotiators left the Capitol late Friday, and the House and Senate adjourned without a spending deal, ensuring a partial government shutdown at midnight with President Donald Trump demanding billions of dollars for his long-promised Mexican border wall.

Trump’s top envoys were straining to broker a last-minute compromise with Democrats and some of their own Republican Party’s lawmakers. But Vice President Mike Pence, incoming White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior adviser Jared Kushner departed after hours spent dashing back and forth, with no outward signs of an agreement.

“We’re going to have a shutdown,” Trump said via video message on Twitter less than three hours from the deadline. “There’s nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes.”

Trump added, “The shutdown hopefully will not last long.”

The shutdown would disrupt government operations and leave hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or forced to work without pay just days before Christmas. Senators passed legislation ensuring workers receive back pay; it will be sent to the House.

Mulvaney, who is currently the White House budget chief, sent out a memo around 10 p.m. instructing agencies “to execute plans for an orderly shutdown” when the funding lapses at midnight.

At a White House bill signing, Trump said the government was “totally prepared for a very long shutdown,” though hardly anyone thought a lengthy shutdown was likely.

The president tried to pin the blame on Democrats, even though just last week he said he would be “proud” to claim ownership of a shutdown in a fight for the wall. Campaigning for office two years ago, he had declared the wall would go up “so fast it will make your head spin.” He also promised Mexico would pay for it, which Mexico has said it will never do.

“This is our only chance that we’ll ever have, in our opinion, because of the world and the way it breaks out, to get great border security,” Trump said Friday at the White House. Democrats will take control of the House in January, and they oppose major funding for wall construction.

Looking for a way to claim victory, Trump said he would accept money for a “Steel Slat Barrier” with spikes on the top, which he said would be just as effective as a “wall” and “at the same time beautiful.”

Congress is planning to be back in session Saturday, but no votes were scheduled. Lawmakers were told they would be given 24-hour notice to return to Washington.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, left negotiations calling the chances of an accord by midnight “probably slim.”

Trump convened Republican senators for a morning meeting, but the lengthy back-and-forth did not appear to set a strategy for moving forward. He has demanded $5.7 billion.

“I was in an hour meeting on that and there was no conclusion,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly set in motion a procedural vote on a House Republican package that would give Trump the money he wants for the wall, but it was not expected to pass.

The White House said Trump would not go to Florida on Friday as planned for the Christmas holiday if the government were shutting down.

At issue is funding for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests.

Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, are funded for the year and would continue to operate as usual. The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, would not be affected because it’s an independent agency.

Both the House and Senate packages would extend government funding through Feb. 8, all but guaranteeing another standoff once Democrats take control of the House in the New Year.

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