WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump changed plans to stay in Washington on Friday, with the very real threat of a government shutdown at the stroke of midnight landing on the first anniversary of his inauguration.
Republicans and Democrats spent much of the morning blaming each other for the possibility, as cable news networks displayed countdown clocks to the deadline when funding will run out.
More than 40 Senate Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and a handful of Senate Republicans say they oppose a short-term 30-day spending bill that the House passed on Thursday. In the Senate, 60 votes are needed to pass the House bill, something that still looks unlikely.
With just 12 hours to go, it didn’t even seem like that there was any concerted movement to resolve the impasse. Democrats floated the idea of passing a funding bill that will keep the government open for just a few days to give more time for negotiating, but Republican leaders so far have been cool to the idea.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told NBC News that he doesn’t support the short-term funding fix advanced by Republican leadership because of its harm to the military, and urged Trump to get involved in resolving the situation. He said they were at “the 10-yard line” when it came to reaching an initial deal on contentious issues like immigration and healthcare.
“We need the White House to make a decision and stick to it,” Graham said.
The White House tried to characterize Democratic opposition as the “Schumer shutdown,” even though Republicans control the presidency and the two branches of Congress.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said if there is a shutdown, it “will look different” than what it did in the last closure, in 2013. During that 16-day shutdown, many federal agencies closed all but needed operations, and the the most visible public impact was the closure of the national parks.
Mulvaney signaled that parks, the Post Office, and other agencies like the TSA would continue, but workers would be on the job without pay.
He said Trump was still “actively working” to try to prevent this shutdown, but he also tried to pin the blame on Democrats and even several times tried to blame President Barack Obama for the 2013 closure.
Trump was supposed to fly to Palm Beach on Friday for a weekend celebration of the anniversary at Mar-a-Lago, including a fundraising event on Saturday.
“There is no way you could lay this at the feet of the president of the United States,” Mulvaney said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said from the floor, “I wish for all of our sakes that the Democratic leader can figure out what he actually wants. I feel bad for his own members, he’s painted them into a corner.”
Democrats are demanding that the funding bill resolve the issue of what to do to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. Trump’s administration announced in September that an existing program would end on March 5, and that Congress should come up with a solution.
Defense Secretary James Mattis made the argument against the shutdown, but also argued that Congress’ approaches to funding the government, through short-term spending measures, was harmful to the military. During the last shutdown, those tasked with national security and safety continued to work, but Mattis argued that the unpredictable funding process was affecting troop training.
“We will continue what we are doing, but the value of the American military is grossly enhanced by a sense that the American model of government … can function and carry out its governmental responsibilities,” he said.