The U.S. government officially entered a partial shutdown early Jan. 20 as Senate leaders struggled to reach a deal to at least temporarily resume funding for federal operations before Americans awoke to a political breakdown.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell held a key procedural vote open past the midnight deadline to pass a spending bill with the chamber well short of the 60 votes needed to advance a House Republican measure to fund the government for another 30 days. The vote failed 50-49.
After a day of recriminations and frantic back-and-forth talks, senators milled on the floor of the chamber with the vote still open. McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer engaged in shuttle diplomacy, alternating between conferring with their members and each other.
Even as the lawmakers continued their discussions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders fired off a statement minutes before midnight blasting Democrats as “obstructionist losers, not legislators. ”
“When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform,” Sanders added in the statement emailed to reporters.
The Trump administration’s plan to halt some government operations at least nominally kicked in.
The White House and federal agencies spent Jan. 19 mapping out how to proceed if the deadline passed without an agreement. Some departments revived shutdown plans from the Obama years. The administration wanted as little disruption as possible. For instance, mail will continue to be delivered; airport control towers will be staffed; and the Interior Department hopes to keep the national parks open.
A day spent on phone calls and meetings, including a face-to-face discussion between President Donald Trump and Schumer, briefly raised hopes that a solution was within grasp. But pessimism spread in the Capitol as it was clear no deal had been reached at the White House meeting and the midnight deadline approached.
“I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen next,” Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said earlier Jan. 19, before the vote.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney predicted Republicans and Democrats would strike an agreement before the weekend was out to provide temporary funding for the government that would let federal agencies open on schedule Monday.
“I think there’s a deal in the next 24 hours,” Mulvaney said on CNN.