Unprecedented: Shutdown bleeds into new Congress

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Washington is experiencing a massive shake-up on Thursday as Democrats take over the House and Republicans beef up their Senate majority. But one thing is showing no signs of change: A government shutdown dragging into its 13th day.

Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is set to pass a package of government funding bills on Thursday afternoon aimed at reopening the quarter of the government that’s closed and shirking President Donald Trump’s border wall. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he won’t take up the proposals — or anything at all without Trump’s approval.

A government shutdown has never in recent history dragged on from one Congress to another, but like so many things under Trump’s presidency this conflict is one without precedent.

The sharp impasse comes after a bipartisan meeting with the president on Wednesday aimed to restarting moribund negotiations. But Trump dismissed Pelosi’s plan and said he would look “foolish” for reopening government departments unrelated to the immigration dispute, leaving the new divided Congress opening in a state of remarkable gridlock.

“We want the president to open up the government. We are giving him a Republican path to do that, why would he not do it?” Pelosi implored the president after the meeting.

But McConnell raised the prospect that the shutdown could drag on for “weeks” and dismissed Pelosi’s bill as political theater, even though Senate Republicans supported a stopgap bill with no increase in wall funding as recently as December. The GOP has deemed the House bill a stunt given the lack of presidential support.

“Will these new Democrats come to Washington ready to roll up their sleeves, work together and make laws? Or are they going to waste time on partisan show votes that will do nothing to move the country forward?” McConnell said on Wednesday night. “Let me make this perfectly clear: The Senate will not waste its time considering a Democrat bill which cannot pass this chamber and which the president will not sign.”

With the two top congressional leaders already feuding, the sides have at least tentatively agreed to continue talking. Members of Congress have been invited to another meeting at the White House on Friday, and the president said after Wednesday’s unsuccessful meeting that he is “ready and willing to work with Democrats to pass a bill that secures our borders.”

But Trump launched a new attack on Democrats on Thursday as the new House majority prepared to be sworn in, blaming the impasse on their political ambitions even though Trump once said he’d be “proud” to take the blame for the shutdown.

“The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election. The Democrats know they can’t win based on all of the achievements of “Trump,” so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security – and Presidential Harassment. For them, strictly politics!” Trump posted in Twitter on Thursday.

Republicans have surmised that Pelosi may be more willing to deal with Trump after winning her speakership election on Thursday, yet Democrats seem to have little interest in ceding ground to the president. Some liberals are urging the Democratic leaders to give Trump no money for a border barrier, and Schumer and Pelosi have settled at $1.3 billion for fencing, which means no increase from current funding levels.

“If the Republicans and Trump want to reject that, then the ball is in their court to come up with something they think would fly. There is no appetite on the Democratic side of the aisle to fund a wall that is symbolic at best and largely political for his base,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

The president is moving in another direction, panning a compromise that Vice President Mike Pence floated to Schumer of about half the $5 billion that the president has been seeking. Trump is still advocating for the $5.6 billion in funding passed by the Republican House in the lame duck, a piece of legislation which officially dies at noon Thursday when the House GOP majority fades away.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/03/government-shutdown-day-13-1078290
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