White House, Senate GOP Point Fingers On Shutdown As Short-Term Deal Looks Likely

on December 18, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America

The White House and Senate Republicans not-so-subtly blamed one another for their failure to reach a bipartisan agreement to keep the government open, after President Trump’s latest demand for $1 billion for an immigration enforcement fund was summarily rejected by Democrats on Tuesday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put the onus on Senate Republicans to find a deal with their Democratic colleagues while refusing to say what type of deal President Trump would accept. Senate Republicans responded that they had no interest in advancing legislation that the White House wouldn’t agree to, while many admitted a short-term continuing resolution that would fund the government for a few weeks and punt the fight to the next Congress might be the only option.

With just over three days until a partial government shutdown at the end of the day Friday, Republicans seemed like they had no plan to fund the government that could get the votes necessary in their waning days of unified legislative control.

“At this point we’re disappointed in the fact they’ve yet to vote and pass something. When they do that, we’ll make a determination whether we’re going to sign that,” Sanders said of the Senate Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll see what the Senate will pass. We’re disappointed in the process and their inability to put something forward. Once they put something on the table, we’ll make a determination on whether we’ll move forward.”

Republican senators didn’t seem thrilled with the position the White House had put them in, even as many blamed Democrats for refusing his new demands. Trump backed away from his insistence that Democrats give him $5 billion to start construction on a U.S.-Mexico border wall on Tuesday, a week after saying he’d be “proud” to shut down the government if he didn’t get that funding. But his latest demand for $1 billion in immigration enforcement money to spend as he sees fit was a non-starter for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as well.

The always-taciturn Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said after Democrats rejected the latest deal that he was in “consultation with the White House about the way forward,” making it clear he didn’t have an answer yet.

“We’ll have more to say about that hopefully a little bit later about what the President is willing to sign,” he said. “I’m discussing with the White House where we go next, and once I get an answer to that I’ll talk with Sen. Schumer again and see what we can do.”

McConnell said he was confident the government wouldn’t be shut down over Christmas.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that helped negotiate the original spending bills Trump is now stalling with his insistence on more immigration enforcement funding, said that Congress would likely have to punt into the new year. He was one of many Republicans who said that was the most likely option. At that point, Democrats will have a majority in the House and even more leverage over negotiations.

“There’ll probably be an effort to pass a short-term C.R. [continuing resolution] that gets us to some point early next year. That’s probably the likeliest path at this point. It’s disappointing. We’re very close to having to be able to finish out the budget process, the appropriations process over here,” Rubio said.

Rubio blamed Senate Democrats for rejecting Trump’s offer. But when he was asked if Senate Republicans knew what Trump would sign, he conceded “we don’t know.”

Schumer said Democrats would “very seriously consider” the offer of a short-term funding deal, while knocking down Trump’s latest offer.

A $1 billion slush fund is not what’s right, what the American people want, and it couldn’t get the votes in either chamber to pass,” he said.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said “We’re not sure” what Trump was willing to sign, before admitting that it looked increasingly likely a short-term deal might be the only path forward.

“It’s not long ’til midnight Friday. I hope we would avoid a CR but we’ll have to wait and see,” he told reporters, saying the likelihood a continuing resolution is “more likely than it was two or three hours ago.”


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