Partial US Government Shutdown Continues for Second Day

The U.S. government stayed partially shut down Sunday for a second day, with no immediate end in sight to the stalemate between Republican and Democratic lawmakers over federal spending and immigration issues.

U.S. President Donald Trump, at the start of his second year in office, pressured Congress to resolve the standoff, suggesting on Twitter that if it continues, Senate Republicans should abandon the long-standing supermajority rule required for major legislation in the chamber.  He said Republican lawmakers should instead opt for a “nuclear option” and a simple majority to vote “on real, long term budget,” rather than voting on another temporary funding measure.

The lawmakers traded barbs all day Saturday over the blame for the first government hiatus since 2013, even as some moderate lawmakers from both parties huddled to see if they could broker an agreement that would reopen the government in time for the start of the work week on Monday.

The Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, scheduled a vote for 1 a.m. Monday, possibly sooner, on a new spending bill that would keep the government open until February 8. But opposition Democrats, over the objection of Republicans, held fast in demanding that part of the agreement include protection against deportation for nearly 800,000 young immigrants who years ago were brought illegally to the United States by their parents.

Trump tweeted Sunday, “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border” with Mexico, where he wants funding for a wall to thwart more illegal immigration. “The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.”

Essential work continues

The partial government shutdown, curtailing services considered to be non-essential, started at midnight Friday after Senate Republicans fell 10 votes short of the required 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member chamber in voting on a spending plan that the House of Representatives had already approved to fund government operations through February 16.

The lawmakers are at loggerheads over an array of defense spending and immigration issues, including the fate of the program ended by Trump last September that protected the young immigrants from deportation, even as he gave Congress until March 5 to weigh in on the issue.

But he wants tighter security along the 3,200-kilometer U.S.-Mexican border, including funding for the wall, in exchange for allowing the immigrants to remain in the U.S. without the threat of deportation.

“The president will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Saturday.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told NBC’s Meet the Press show on Sunday that Trump remains willing to resolve the deportation issue, but Short described a bipartisan immigration proposal offered Trump last week as “woefully insufficient.”

One key Democratic senator, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told the same show, that the budget and immigration issues will only be resolved “when the president shows some leadership.”

Temporary solutions

Any temporary spending measure that eventually could be approved to reopen the government in full would be the fourth in the last few months, leaving lawmakers short of enacting legislation that sets spending through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.

As debate continued Saturday during the stalemate, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin objected to the continuing series of temporary spending bills, saying it “simply kicks the can down the road and fails to get the job done for the American people.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted, “I know it looks like a mess — but there are many senators of good will who want to solve the problem.” Graham thanked Democratic senators’ “commitment to hard work and finding solutions.”

The House stayed in session Saturday, voting on a rule that would allow the chamber to quickly consider any newly negotiated legislation sent over from the Senate. Both the House and Senate are set to meet again Sunday afternoon.

Federal agencies, meanwhile, prepared to idle employees and halt major portions of their operations if no agreement was reached Sunday or in the wee hours Monday.

The U.S. government has been partially shut down on several occasions before in lawmaking and funding disputes over the years, most recently in 2013 for 16 days in a partisan deadlock over health care policy. About 850,000 federal workers were furloughed then.

What stops and what continues during a federal shutdown varies. But federal research projects could be stalled, national parks and museums closed, tax refunds delayed, processing of veterans’ disability applications delayed, and federal nutrition programs suspended, as was the case in 2013.

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