Politics

Border Wall Impasse Leads to Partial Government Shutdown

President Donald Trump has stood his ground about needing $5 billion to fund a security wall for America's safety

Congress was unable to pass the remaining spending bills to avert a partial government shutdown on Friday — with border wall funding remaining a major sticking point.

President Donald Trump has stood his ground about needing $5 billion to fund a security wall along the southern border.

Democratic leaders, in turn, have refused to give him any funding for the wall. The fight put both sides on a collision course toward a government shutdown despite several attempts to avert it.

Roughly a quarter of the government will be affected.

A partial government shutdown occurs when lawmakers don’t pass every appropriations bill or a continuing resolution before the end of the fiscal year. It’s when the government runs out of money, essentially. Federal agencies must temporarily disband all nonessential employees and functions until new funding legislation is signed into law. But the government still maintains most functions, which is why this is often referred to as a partial shutdown.

An estimated 400,000 federal employees will work without pay during the shutdown, according to Bloomberg. Then there are another 350,000 workers who will be furloughed, meaning they’ll be temporally dismissed. Those employees who work without pay would get compensated when the government reopens. Congress has also traditionally acted to ensure the furloughed workers get retroactive pay as well.

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Congress made the government shutdown essentially inevitable when both chambers moved to adjourn late Friday. The House ended its session first, with lawmakers in both parties and the president continuing their 11th-hour talks to reach a deal. The Senate did the same a little over an hour later.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced a continuing resolution this week to keep the government funded at current levels until February 8. The Senate quickly passed it Wednesday before it moved to the House.

But that version of the bill was derailed soon after facing internal opposition.

Related: Government Funding Fight Reaches Fever Pitch

The House Freedom Caucus argued from the floor against the bill and urged a fight for border wall funding Wednesday. Trump also came out against the short-term spending proposal the next day. The House responded by passing a version of the bill, which also included $5.7 billion for his border wall.

But both chambers need to pass identical bills.

“Within the Republican conference there is strong support for the president’s reasonable request for more resources to tackle the urgent situation at our southern border,” McConnell said from the floor hours before the shutdown. “Republicans support the House passed bill, which includes the addition of border security funding. We’re also eager to complete the remaining appropriations bills, which the Senate has already passed.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), alongside leadership from both parties, reached a deal hours before adjourning that they would not vote on anything else relative to this funding issue until an agreement had been reached. This was to allow them to forge ahead with late negotiations to avoid a government shutdown.

“Since any eventual solution requires 60 votes here in the Senate, it’s been clear from the beginning that two things are necessary, support from enough Senate Democrats to pass the proposal and a presidential signature,” McConnell said. “As a result, the Senate has voted to proceed with legislation before us in order to preserve maximum flexibility for productive conversation to continue between the White House and our Democratic colleagues.”

Trump seemed ready to take the blame for the shutdown in the name of border security during a contentious meeting with Democratic leaders on December 11. But he later argued the Democrats would be at fault if they didn’t vote for border security. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded by putting the blame on him.

Schumer said during the failed meeting they should either pass a continuing resolution for the remaining spending bills or just one for the bill that covers border security. Schumer had previously said he was only willing to provide the $1.6 billion for border security. But those funds cannot go to the construction of a border wall.

“Democrats have offered three proposals to keep the government open, including a proposal offered by Leader McConnell that passed the Senate unanimously just a few days ago,” Schumer said from the floor hours before the partial shutdown. “We are willing to continue discussions of those proposals with the Senate leader, president and leader of the House. All five are necessary to get something done.”

Related: House Freedom Caucus Demands Border Wall Funding as Shutdown Deadline Looms

Trump urged McConnell to go with the nuclear option when it comes to the filibuster. The move would involve a simple majority vote to end the two-thirds vote required to end a filibuster. McConnell rejected the idea because it could backfire when Democrats regain the majority.

“The legislative filibuster, the requirement that it takes 60 votes to pass major legislation, protects the minority, and for most of the last 70 years, conservatives and Republicans have been in the minority,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said from the floor hours before lawmakers adjourned. “Since World War II, Democrats have controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress for 22 years; Republicans have had such complete control for only eight years.”

Lawmakers have already had to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for two weeks to avoid a shutdown on December 7. An earlier spending bill also included a continuing resolution that extended the original deadline on September 30.

Congress was able to fund most of the government months earlier, but still has seven spending bills remaining. The first minibus package covered energy, the legislative branch, military construction and veterans affairs with billions of dollars in additional funding. The second minibus package includes billions of dollars that primarily go toward defense, labor, health services and education along with the continuing resolution.

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