TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – As the White House and Democrats remained locked in a standoff over funding for President Trump’s border wall, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sent his colleagues home for the Christmas holiday on Saturday.
McConnell’s adjournment of the Senate until Thursday came after a frenzied day of negotiations in Washington and conflicting signals from the White House, the New York Times reported.
McConnell virtually ensured that the government will remain partially shuttered for at least several more days.
Around the country, the partial shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and affects roughly one-quarter of the federal government, deprived 800,000 workers of their pay and was visible at places like national parks, where sites were unstaffed or, in some cases, closed.
Trump is demanding $5 billion for the “big, beautiful wall” he promised to build at the southern border, and in a conference call with reporters, administration officials insisted that he would accept nothing less. But even as they spoke, Vice President Mike Pence was on his way to the Capitol to present an offer to the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York.
Those talks, however, appeared to make little headway. Pence was tight-lipped as he left Schumer’s office — “We’re still talking,” he said — while a spokesman for Schumer, Justin Goodman, pronounced the two sides “very far apart.” McConnell then announced the Senate’s adjournment and left the Capitol to fly home to Kentucky for the holiday.
With lawmakers cleared out of Washington and no end to the impasse in sight, some speculated that it would be left to Democrats to reopen the government when they take over the House next month. In an interview Saturday morning, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democrats’ nominee to be speaker, vowed that they would do just that.
“We have certainty,” Pelosi declared. “We will end this the first week in January.”
The shutdown that began Saturday was the third of Trump’s 23 months in office and an ignominious end to a year that began much the same way, with a three-day government shutdown in January.
With Senate Democrats saying they will never accede to Trump’s insistence on the $5 billion for his wall, and the White House offering no indication that the president will accept less, nine of the federal government’s 15 cabinet-level departments have officially shuttered. They include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security and the Interior; other agencies, like the Defense Department, are unaffected because Congress had already approved their spending.
Roughly 380,000 workers were expected to be sent home, and another 420,000 considered too essential to be furloughed — including airport security officials and Customs and Border Patrol officers — were to remain on the job without pay. The shutdown’s effects will become more pronounced on Wednesday, when workers had been scheduled to return after the holiday.