The longest government shutdown in U.S. history entered its 32nd day on Jan. 22 with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to call up legislation to advance a proposal from President Donald Trump, which Democrats have already said they’ll reject.
Lawmakers are returning to Washington after a holiday weekend that started off with signs of incremental progress, but concluded with little accomplished. If the stalemate continues all week, many of the 800,000 federal workers going without pay will miss a second paycheck since funding ran out for about a quarter of the government, including the Department of Transportation, just before Christmas.
The widening impact of the shutdown continued to reverberate across the country. The number of screeners at the nation’s airports who took unscheduled leave hit the highest level seen so far over the weekend. The Transportation Security Administration said about 10% of workers took unscheduled absences on Jan. 20, more than triple that of a year ago, with many citing “financial limitations.”
Public transit agencies that depend on federal grants have had to cut back services and are beginning to delay important repair and maintenance projects, according to the American Public Transportation Association. And on Jan. 22, an association representing about 13,000 FBI special agents plans to release a report showing how the shutdown is undermining work on criminal and national security cases.
President Donald Trump, followed by Vice President Mike Pence (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
There appeared to be little progress toward reaching a deal on Jan. 21, a federal holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Trump made a 15-minute foray from the White House to visit King’s memorial in Washington, speaking for about a minute. On Twitter, he criticized Democrats for campaigning on “working within Washington and ‘getting things done!’ How’s that working out?”
The stalemate continued despite Trump and senior Democrats appearing to take initial steps toward a possible compromise deal on immigration and border security at the start of the weekend, even as the president ramped up his feud with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asking sarcastically if she wanted to tear down the existing border wall.
The president said in a Jan. 19 speech he would support a mix of immigration-related proposals in exchange for $5.7 billion to build a wall or other barriers along the border. Trump’s supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, pointed to the offer as evidence of the president’s willingness to strike a compromise with Democrats.
McConnell plans votes to advance the president’s latest proposal in the Senate as early as Nov. 22, but the measure will need Democratic support to get the 60 votes needed to go forward.
Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
Trump’s offer was quickly rejected by Democrats, who say they want the government opened before they negotiate. They also say they don’t want to reward the president for what they call his move to take federal workers hostage to get his border wall, lest they give him an incentive to use the shutdown tactic again.
“We would love to have a permanent fix” for people eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as well as immigrants with Temporary Protected Status “just as he wants a permanent wall,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat. But reopen the government first, Clyburn insisted.
Risking anger from his core conservative allies, Trump said his latest proposal doesn’t include “amnesty,” but said he’s prepared to offer that for the right price.
“Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else,” he tweeted on Jan. 20, before adding a warning to Pelosi: “Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000-plus people who are here illegally — but be careful Nancy!”
The stalemate leaves Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer facing another choice as lawmakers return to town: make a fresh counteroffer of their own that would include wall money, or stick to their previously unified negotiating positions and hope a majority of the public continues to blame the president or Republicans.
Pelosi’s Democrats, meanwhile, plan more votes of their own in the House to reopen the government, with a new offer of $1 billion for border upgrades — but not a wall — on tap this week.