Federal U.S shutdown begins after lawmakers fail to reach deal

The gridlock blocks money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies

A partial federal shutdown took hold early Saturday after Democrats refused to meet President Donald Trump’s demands for $5 billion to start erecting his cherished Mexican border wall, a chaotic postscript for Republicans in the waning days of their two-year reign controlling government.

Vice-President Mike Pence, Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney left the Capitol late Friday after hours of bargaining with congressional leaders produced no apparent compromise. “We don’t have a deal. We’re still talking,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters.

Late Friday, Mulvaney sent agency heads a memorandum telling them to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown.” He wrote that administration officials were “hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration” — an expectation that was widely shared.

With negotiations expected to continue, the House and Senate both scheduled rare Saturday sessions. House members were told they’d get 24 hours’ notice before a vote.

The gridlock blocks money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

The lack of funds will disrupt many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas, while 380,000 will be furloughed, meaning they’ll stay home without pay.

Those being furloughed include nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service will stay home and many parks were expected to close.

The Senate passed legislation ensuring workers will receive back pay, which the House seemed sure to approve.

Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded for the year in agreements reached earlier, and they will operate as usual.

The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, will not be affected because it’s an independent agency. Social Security checks will still be mailed, troops will remain on duty and food inspections will continue.

Also still functioning will be the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers will continue to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers will also remain at work.

Trump has openly savored a shutdown over the wall for months, saying last week he’d be “proud” to have one and saying Friday he was “totally prepared for a very long” closure. While many of Congress’ most conservative Republicans were welcoming such a confrontation, most GOP lawmakers have wanted to avoid one, since polling shows the public broadly opposes the wall and a shutdown over it.

Initial Republican reaction to the shutdown was muted. Among the few GOP lawmakers who issued statements as it began were Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who expressed disappointment at the lack of a deal, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “This is a complete failure of negotiations and a success for no one,” Alexander said.

“Instead of honouring his responsibility to the American people, President Trump threw a temper tantrum and convinced House Republicans to push our nation into a destructive Trump Shutdown in the middle of the holiday season,” said a joint statement by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Despite saying last week he’d not blame Democrats for the closure, Trump and his GOP allies spent the last two days blaming Democrats anyway. Trump said now was the time for Congress to provide taxpayers’ money for the wall, even though he’s said repeatedly that Mexico will pay for it — something that country has repeatedly rebuffed.

“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. Democrats will take control of the House January 3, 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.”

Trump called GOP senators to the White House Friday morning, but Republicans said afterward that the session did not produce a strategy.

Early this week, the Senate approved a bipartisan deal keeping government open into February and providing $1.3 billion for border security projects but not the wall. In a GOP victory Thursday, the House rebelled and approved a package temporarily financing the government but also providing $5.7 billion for the border wall.

Friday afternoon, a Senate procedural vote showed that Republicans lacked the 60 votes they’d need to force that measure through their chamber. That jump-started negotiations between Congress and the White House.

Republicans conceded that one of their biggest hurdles was Trump’s legendary unpredictability and proclivity for abruptly changing his mind.

“The biggest problem is, we just don’t know what the president will sign,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

The White House said Trump did not go to Florida on Friday as planned for the Christmas holiday.

Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

Lisa Mascaro, Matthew Daly And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Single dad reaches out to Greater Victoria community to help kids celebrate Christmas

A young family was overwhelmed with the warm response from strangers

Victoria resident faces discrimination from BC Transit since transitioning to a wheelchair

Daniel Sands says they are often not allowed on buses, even when there is room

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

VIDEO: More air-passenger rights go into effect this weekend

The first set of passenger rights arrived in mid-July in Canada

Swoop airlines adds three destinations in 2020 – Victoria, Kamloops, San Diego

Low-fair subsidiary of WestJet Airlines brings new destinations in April 2020

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Dec. 10

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Investigators confirm three died in B.C. plane crash

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Trudeau sets 2025 deadline to remove B.C. fish farms

Foes heartened by plan to transition aquaculture found in Fisheries minister mandate letter

Wagon wheels can now be any size! B.C. community scraps 52 obsolete bylaws

They include an old bylaw regulating public morals

Indigenous mother wins $20,000 racial discrimination case against Vancouver police

Vancouver Police Board ordered to pay $20,000 and create Indigenous-sensitivity training

Most Read