This story was updated at 3:10 p.m.
Cranky lawmakers returned to Congress on Saturday no closer to an agreement on ending the government shutdown than they were when the government ran out of funds at midnight the night before. The only thing they could agree on was that it was the other guy’s fault.
Democrats continued to demand that President Trump and GOP leaders include a fix to reinstate legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in any agreement, lambasting Trump for constantly changing his mind on what it would take to reach a deal, while Republicans accused their colleagues across the aisle of throwing a tantrum over immigrants.
Both sides seemed gearing up for a long-term shutdown, confident they’ll win argument with voters and seeming poised to wait until they see how the public reacts to it over the coming days and see if the other side blinks. And while lawmakers voiced hopes that they might be able to reach a short-term agreement before the end of the weekend, few sounded particularly optimistic — with some worried that the longer the shutdown dragged out, the harder it would be to reach a solution.
“I’d like to say it’s going to end pretty fast and I think it probably will end pretty fast because it’s stupid to be doing what we’re doing — but as of right now I don’t know if it’s going to be Friday or Sunday or Monday or Tuesday,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) told TPM early Saturday afternoon. “If it goes past Monday it’s a problem because it becomes easier to stay out and then an issue gets blurred and then personalities get involved and then nobody remembers why they’re fighting but they’re fighting and that’s when you really have trouble.”
That trouble already seemed well in place, with senior lawmakers and the White House going after one another in unusually personal terms as they sought to blame the other side for the ongoing shutdown.
“Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with jello. It’s next to impossible,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters, slamming Trump for tentatively agreeing to a series of possible DACA deals before reneging on those pledges. “As soon as you take one step forward the hard right forces the president three steps back… It’s next to impossible to strike a deal with the president because he can’t stick to the terms.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went hard after Schumer.
“He thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration,” he said in a floor speech to open the Senate on Saturday. “The solution is to end the foolishness that’s hurting millions Americans who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this.”
Things only got worse from there, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney accused Schumer of lying about the amount he offered Trump to fund the wall.
“Mr. Schumer is going to have to up his game a little bit and be more honest with the president of the United States,” he said in a White House briefing.
Schumer’s spokesman shot back:
Director Mulvaney was not in the lunch, and is not telling the truth.
Period, full stop. https://t.co/n7L00LNErE
— Matt House (@mattwhouse) January 20, 2018
Some lawmakers were more optimistic that they might be able to reach a deal to reopen the government for less than a month, with Feb. 8 being a date some in both parties bandied about.
“I think that there is a deal to be had, it’s just a matter of the will to get it done, and that’s the frustrating part. But I’m guardedly optimistic we’ll get something done by Monday,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), one of a handful of red-state Democrats who voted with the GOP to keep the government open on Friday night, told TPM.
But many said it was up to the president to show leadership, and nearly all Democrats remained firm in their demand for DACA to be a part of any deal.
“Only the internal workings of the cerebral mechanism of President Trump would answer that question. It is impossible for me to understand,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) told TPM when asked if he thought Congress might find a compromise before the end of the weekend.
And as they left an afternoon meeting, Democrats didn’t seem any closer to having landed on a way forward.
The White House made it clear that immigration was a nonstarter.
“We are committed to making sure the American people, especially our great military and the most vulnerable children are taken care of. 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.
As both sides dug in, the vulnerable red-state Democrats who face tough reelections this fall voiced growing frustration.
“Forget about elections, forget about all that. This is not what we’re sent here to do. This is not our job. Our job is to keep the place open and running in more of a normal fashion. That’s not happening,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), another Democrat who broke with his party, told reporters as he entered a Democratic meeting Saturday afternoon. “I am pissed off.”