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Trump's wall and the US shutdown: This is where things stand

Dec 29 2018 11:22
Erik Wasson and Shannon Petty, Bloomberg

President Donald Trump discussed the government shutdown stalemate at the White House with advisers including Vice President Mike Pence, legislative director Shahira Knight and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, an official said.

No progress is being reported on ending the partial closure that began December 22 and entered its seventh day Friday.

Last week, Pence told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that the president would agree to a deal that included $2.5 billion for border security, half the $5 billion he’s publicly demanded, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

But Schumer and likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are sticking with their offer of $1.3 billion for border security, without allowing the administration to build new sections of wall.

Some federal workers began to feel the pain of the partial US government shutdown on Friday.

The first paychecks were going out with reduced funds for employees who were assigned to work without pay on the first day of the shutdown, a Saturday, or who began their furlough that day.

If Trump’s standoff with Democrats over a wall at the US-Mexico border continues, all workers in the nine departments and dozens of agencies affected by the closure will miss their next paycheck on January 11.

Gifts Returned

“I’ve had members come to me saying they are returning holiday and Christmas presents they bought because they are worried about paying rent,” National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said in an interview Thursday. “Congress should be doing everything in its power to get the government up and running again.”

Democrats have little incentive to negotiate until they take over the House of Representatives on January 3 and gain leverage in the talks. Schumer’s spokesman, Justin Goodman, said both sides remain far apart.

“We on the Republican side do not want to vote for a bill the president won’t sign,” Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, told reporters in the Capitol Thursday. “So hopefully Senator Schumer and the Democrat leadership will come up with a number that satisfies the president for border security.”

Resolution of the standoff may end up involving a face-saving deal on a barrier that Trump can call a wall.

“They can call it anything they want to, barrier or fence,“ Roberts said.

There’s little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the standoff as the new Congress is set to convene next week.

Trump is demanding $5 billion for the wall, while Democratic leaders have proposed $1.3 billion for border security.

Congressional leaders remained out of town, while Trump returned to Washington early Thursday from an unannounced visit to US troops in Iraq. The Senate and House held brief sessions on Thursday but took no votes.

Lawmakers will be given 24 hours notice if there is a breakthrough that would require a vote.

Latest Developments

Trump tweeted on Friday that he would completely close the border with Mexico unless Democrats provide money for the wall and change immigration laws. Schumer told Pence last weekend that Democrats won’t consider any offer without a public endorsement by Trump because the president has changed his position so often, Goodman said.

Next Steps

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have been negotiating with the Trump administration. Once they reach agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll seek a vote on the deal. If the shutdown lasts past January 3, when Democrats assume control of the House, Pelosi says the chamber will pass a spending bill to reopen the government - without money for a wall.

Key Impacts

The shutdown, which began December 22, affects nine of 15 federal departments, dozens of agencies and hundreds of thousands of workers. Among the departments without funding are: Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Treasury.

Independent agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, are also affected. The departments whose funding lapsed represent about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in government discretionary spending for fiscal year 2019.

An estimated 400 000 federal employees will work without pay and 350 000 will now be furloughed, according to a congressional Democratic aide. Federal employees working without pay and those now furloughed are getting their December 28 pay checks under a decision by the White House budget office since pay reflects work before December 21. 

The remaining parts of the government, including the Defense Department, Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, were already funded and won’t be affected by the shutdown, nor will mandatory entitlement programs like Medicare payments.

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