Washington is bracing for a prolonged shutdown that is already in its second week.
The partial shutdown has left a quarter of the government closed, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed or forced to work without pay.
Power in Congress is about to shift, with Democrats taking the House majority on Thursday. Yet it seems unlikely this will result in an immediate change in the dynamic.
Democrats on Monday announced a new plan for opening the government as soon as on Thursday, but Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall Meadows5 revelations from John Kelly’s Los Angeles Times exit interview Trump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces The Memo: Trump veers between hard-liner, dealmaker on shutdown MORE (R-N.C.), a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCharting a roadmap for North Korea Trump claims ‘wall’ around Obamas’ DC home is ‘same thing’ as border wall Graham: Trump ‘open-minded’ to wedding border funding to DACA protections MORE’s, almost immediately shot it down.
“If the is the best effort at compromise that she can muster then the partial shutdown will continue weeks not days,” Meadows told The Hill.
Democrats were just as tough in their rhetoric, arguing it would be irresponsible for Senate Republicans not to take up their package, which would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 at existing spending levels, effectively punting a decision on Trump’s wall on the Mexican border to that date.
It would separately fund other parts of the government through the end of the current fiscal year. The Senate previously approved a stopgap bill to fund all of the remaining bills, including DHS, through Feb. 8.
“If Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans refuse to support the first bill, then they are complicit with President Trump in continuing the Trump shutdown and in holding the health and safety of the American people and workers’ paychecks hostage over the wall,” incoming House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiPelosi postpones reception for new Congress amid shutdown Resolving the shutdown gives Democrats great opportunity Conway knocks Pelosi over Hawaii trip: ‘Less hula, more moola’ for DHS MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhite House, lawmakers signal shutdown will drag on Shutdown is bad for Republicans, an opportunity for Democrats House adjourns without clear path to avert shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported,” they said, alluding to a bill that passed the Senate in December.
Democrats hope that by separating out the DHS bill, which includes border funding, they will be able to successfully build pressure on Republicans to reopen most of the government. They’re also angling to squeeze Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces No signs of talks as shutdown moves into second week Dem-led House must lead cleanup of Trump-made mess MORE (R-Ky.), an appropriator who has repeatedly warned against shutdowns but has taken a backseat in the current funding feud.
But there’s no sign that McConnell is ready to put daylight between himself and Trump.
“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the President that he won’t sign,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, when asked about the House plan.
Senate Republicans could take up the House bill and amend it, or try to pass their own legislation, but Stewart declined to speculate.
Instead, he pointed to a recent floor speech from the Senate GOP leader, where he outlined what a successful bill would need to be able to do.
“In order to get us out of this mess, a negotiated solution will need to check these boxes. …It will need the support of 60 Senators — which will obviously include a number of Democrats. It will need to pass the House. And it will need a presidential signature,” McConnell said at the time.
The shutdown politics are politically tricky for the careful GOP leader. Moving the six-bill package would dramatically reduce the effects of the shutdown and let Trump continue to fight it out with Democrats over the border wall. But McConnell is unlikely to open up himself or his caucus to criticism from conservatives and the president on an issue viewed as crucial to the party’s base ahead of the 2020 election.
The back-and-forth comes as negotiators have largely been stalemated since the Dec. 21 funding deadline. The Capitol has transformed into a ghost town with the partial shutdown, coupled with the holiday season, leaving only a handful of lawmakers in Washington.
Both the House and Senate met on Monday for a pro-forma session. Combined, the two chambers were in session for less than five minutes.
Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyImmigration is pressure point for both sides in shutdown showdown Senate Appropriations Committee chair: Congress looks ‘silly’ amid shutdown Trump’s Fed feud roils markets, alarms Republicans MORE (R-Ala.) warned that the partial shutdown “could last a long, long time” without a jumpstart in the negotiations.
“Right now, we’re at a standoff,” Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told CBS News’s “Face the Nation. “[But] nobody wins in a shutdown. We all lose and we kind of look silly.”
The result has been negotiations that are largely in a holding pattern. Trump unleashed a string of tweets against Democrats on Monday, arguing they were using a “ridiculous sound bite” to say that a wall “doesn’t work.”
“It does, and properly built, almost 100%! They say it’s old technology — but so is the wheel. They now say it is immoral — but it is far more immoral for people to be dying!” he said.
In another tweet, Trump implored Democrats to return to Washington, saying that he was “in the Oval Office” and Democrats should “come back from vacation now.”
Trump also publicly urged Democrats over the weekend to “come on over” after he canceled plans to travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. But a spokesman for Pelosi said on Monday that she had yet to hear from Trump and hadn’t received an invitation to come to the White House to discuss the issue with him.
Republicans demanded $5 billion for the border wall, an amount that was backed by a seven-week stopgap bill House Republicans passed days before the shutdown deadline. But they’ve signaled since then that they are willing to accept roughly half of that, $2.5 billion.
Lawmakers and administration officials say they’ve made offers, unsuccessfully so far, to Schumer along those lines, including potentially being willing to go as low as $2.1 billion. But it’s unclear if Trump would sign such a deal and Democrats are making it clear they are not yet ready to back down from their negotiating position.
Schumer and Pelosi blasted Trump on Monday saying he “sits in the White House and tweets, without offering any plan that can pass both chambers of Congress” and urged him to “come to his senses.”