Top White House official says ‘very possible’ shutdown stretches into 2019

The setting sun illuminates clouds behind the White House in the District of Columbia, Dec. 22, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Alex Brandon, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (AP) — A top White House official warned Sunday that it’s “very possible” the partial government shutdown stretches into the new year and that how quickly numerous shuttered Cabinet departments and agencies resume doing the people’s business is up to Congress.

“The ball is in the Senate’s court,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said.

Senate Democrats, who oppose funding for President Donald Trump’s promised border wall, contend government could reopen immediately if Trump drops his demand to extend a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A stalemate over the wall led parts of the government to shut down Saturday after funding for numerous departments and agencies expired.

Mulvaney, who is also director of the White House budget office, said he’s awaiting word from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York after the administration on Saturday presented Schumer with a counteroffer in the long-running dispute over funding the wall.

Mulvaney withheld specifics but placed the offer between Trump’s $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion offered by Democrats.

People walk up the steps even though the National Archives is closed with the partial government shutdown, District of Columbia, Dec. 22, 2018 in Washington. Associated press photo by Alex Brandon, St. George News

The shutdown was expected to last through Thursday after the House and Senate, which held rare weekend sessions, adjourned until later in the week. Monday and Tuesday, Christmas Eve and Christmas, respectively, are federal holidays, meaning much of the federal government would already be closed.

Wednesday is the first day taxpayers could begin to feel the effects of a shutdown, Mulvaney said. But he predicted it could last beyond Thursday, when Congress is next scheduled to come into session.

“It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” he said.

Democrats held firm Sunday in opposition to paying for a border wall, which was a central promise of Trump’s campaign for president.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said the administration is sitting on most of the money Congress gave Trump last year for border security, excluding a wall.

“If you’re not going to spend nine out of 10 dollars on an issue, you obviously don’t care about it that much,” Merkley said. “This is politics, not policy.”

Mulvaney countered that “the president’s not going to not accept money for a border wall.”

The sun rises behind the White House in the District of Columbia, Dec. 22, 2018 | Associated press photo by Carolyn Kaster, St. George News

On the second day of the federal closure, Trump tweeted Sunday that what the country needs is “a good old fashioned WALL that works,” as opposed to aerial drones and other measures that “are wonderful and lots of fun” but not the right answer to address “drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into” the U.S.

From coast to coast, the first day of the shutdown played out in uneven ways. The Statue of Liberty remained open for tours, thanks to money from New York state, and the U.S. Postal Service, an independent agency, was still delivering mail.

Yet the disruption has affected many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and were expected to work unpaid. An additional 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will stay home without pay. The Senate had already passed legislation ensuring that workers will receive back pay, and the House was likely to follow suit.

Unlike past shutdowns, this one seemed to lack urgency, coming during the long holiday weekend after Trump had already declared Christmas Eve a federal holiday. Rather than work around the clock to try to end the shutdown, as they had done in the past, the leaders of the House and the Senate effectively closed up shop. But they didn’t rule out action if a deal were struck.

“Listen, anything can happen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after he closed the Senate’s rare Saturday session hours after it opened.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is met by reporters as he arrives at the Capitol on the first morning of a partial government shutdown, as Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, are at odds with President Donald Trump on spending for his border wall, in the District of Columbia, Dec. 22, 2018 | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

But after ushering Vice President Mike Pence through the Capitol for another round of negotiations, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said a quick end to the shutdown was “not probable.”

Trump had lunch at the White House on Saturday with conservative lawmakers. Absent were GOP leaders or Democrats who would be needed for a deal. The White House said Trump would spend Christmas in Washington because of the shutdown and that his wife, first lady Melania Trump, would fly back from their Florida estate to spend the holiday with him.

With Democrats set to take control of the House Jan. 3, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on his way out, the shutdown was providing a last gasp of the conservative majority before the new Congress.

Trump savored the prospect of a shutdown over the wall for months. This past week he said he would be “proud” to close down the government. He had campaigned on the promise of building the wall, and he also promised Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused.

In recent days, though, Trump tried to shift blame to Democrats for not acceding to his demand. He has given mixed messages on whether he would sign any bill into law.

Read more: Trump says a government shutdown could ‘last for a very long time’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., surrounded by other Democrats talks to reporters about a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in the District of Columbia, Dec. 18, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

Schumer and Pence met Saturday at the request of the White House, according to Schumer’s office. But the senator’s spokesman said they remained “very far apart” on a spending agreement.

Schumer said the “Trump shutdown” could end immediately if the president abandons the wall.

Democrats said they were open to proposals that didn’t include the wall, which Schumer said was too costly and ineffective. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.

Senators approved a bipartisan deal earlier in the week to keep the government open into February and provide $1.3 billion for border security projects, but not the wall. But as Trump faced criticism from conservatives for “caving” on a campaign promise, he pushed the House to approve a package temporarily financing the government but also setting aside $5.7 billion for the border wall.

The impasse blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

Motorists glide through the unattended toll booths at Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colo., Dec. 22, 2018 | Associated press photo by David Zalubowski, St. George News

Those being furloughed included nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service were to stay home; many parks were expected to close.

Read more: Grand Canyon, Zion, other popular parks remain partly operational despite shutdown

Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded and will operate as usual. Also still functioning were the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers continued to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers were on the job.

Mulvaney appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.” Merkley also appeared on ABC.

Written by LISA MASCARO, DARLENE SUPERVILLE and KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press. Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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22 Comments

  • bikeandfish December 23, 2018 at 11:57 am

    The lack of urgency seems a predictable outcome of shutdowns becoming so common.

    One thing to keep in mind, the furlough and economic numbers don’t include all of the employees of subcontractors, etc. There are a ton of private employers affected by this closure as well. Its one of the reasons why shutdowns almost always cost us more in the long run than actually running the federal government. Shutdowns are all politics.

    I’m glad the AP highlighted the unused immigration and border funding the Trump administration is letting sit. For more than a year we’ve had funds that could help deal with things like increased asylum requests, etc. It’s time Congress put pressure on the president to actually use what’s available instead of showboating and creating wedge issues the rally his base.

  • iceplant December 23, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Forrest Trump.
    “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  • Redbud December 23, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    What a wonderful gift from President Trump. He actually does what he says he’s going to do, and he cares enough about our country to do what’s best for it, even though it may take some difficult decisions. Doing what’s right is not always popular, but in the end, this shut down will be worth it. Built That Wall! Drain the Swamp!

    • iceplant December 23, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Here’s what will happen, comrade.
      This ridiculous shutdown will most likely last into the new year. After which, Dems will control the House again. And you will never, ever get the satisfaction of a wall. Better get ready, Boris.

    • Comment December 23, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      well, something has to change. The invasion is sucking the life out of this country. This is not a spanish speaking country–news to a lot of leftists, I know.

      • iceplant December 23, 2018 at 7:06 pm

        “The invasion is sucking the life out of this country.”

        See, now you’re trolling just to troll.
        I’m beginning to wonder who the editor is that allows you to continue trolling. Someone isn’t doing their job.

        • Comment December 23, 2018 at 7:30 pm

          No, I’m actually dead serious.

          • iceplant December 24, 2018 at 3:12 am

            Not the impression I get.

      • TinFoilHat December 23, 2018 at 8:40 pm

        I think the immigration issue is a real problem and this country sorely needs real immigration reform. That said, I don’t think a wall is the answer. The main issue that we will be dealing with soon enough is overpopulation. Overpopulation strains resources. The US has been ‘lucky’ to control much of North America, which had low population levels and vast resources when Europeans first arrived. While the US still has lots of resources, they are no longer plentiful as they once were. Our resource-intensive, consumptive growth-at-all-cost way of life is not sustainable in the long term. World population was 1 billion in 1804 (US: 6M), 3 billion in 1960 (US: 180M), 6 billion in 1999 (US: 280M) and an estimated 7.5 billion (US: 350M) currently. Politically I generally favor free market, libertarian principles, but I believe that regular free market forces are not capable of conservation for the future (if you study the free market and how it works, you will know this to be true). It’s a real problem. As more and more people are trying to escape poverty and political strife brought on by resource scarcity in other parts of the world, immigration problems in the US will only intensify, wall or no wall. This immigration issue is only the tip of the iceberg.

        • Comment December 23, 2018 at 10:06 pm

          It’s all true. We’ve seen a lot of urban decay in this country as a result of mass 3rd-world immigration as well. There is no long-term benefit to this kind of reckless immigration policy. B&F will tell me the price of my tomatoes will go up if we don’t allow 3rd-world illegal immigration. I’ll gladly pay for more my produce if it helps this country to not go down the drain, which is what is happening.

          • bikeandfish December 23, 2018 at 11:03 pm

            Putting words in people’s mouths again. Another lie. I’ve never talked about the price of agriculture in relation to migrant labor.

          • iceplant December 24, 2018 at 3:11 am

            Imagine how the Native Americans must have felt with their immigrant invasion problem.
            Of course, that WAS an actual invasion.
            Carry on with your drama.

          • TinFoilHat December 24, 2018 at 11:43 am

            I would counter that urban decay in this country is not a result of immigration. Rather, it is more and more a result of class division and poverty in this country, the same kind of conditions that are driving people away from their home countries, just not as bad yet. People keep saying the economy is great, but I don’t see it. I think if people have to work two, three, four part time jobs with no benefits then things are not right. How did health care go from being a small percentage of my income to my single largest expense (it’s not Obamacare, my insurance costs overtook my mortgage cost early in the Bush years)? Conservatives want a bottom-up government (as opposed to the top-down management of a communist or socialist system), but I think that the rules that have been implemented have resulted in a top-down economy, just as bad as communism — a cabal of large corporations owned by a very elite few are no better than communist governments in how they treat individual people, their rights and their opportunities. They are running the government. They are making the rules for themselves. They don’t care about individual people, only markets and the bottom line. You can choose Home Depot or Lowe’s, it doesn’t matter, they carry exactly the same stuff and the stores are organized the same way. So our freedom of choice ends up being orange or blue. The price of tomatoes becomes less meaningful when they all taste like crap because they were corporate-farmed using genetics that favor shelf life over flavor. Buy local!

          • Comment December 24, 2018 at 8:07 pm

            It’s close to an oligarchy. Quite similar to modern Russia, actually. The very best aspects of the US gov’t are actually based on a socialist model–publicly-owned infrastructure, nat’l parks, social safety nets, on and on and on. I’m not sure there are actually any conservatives left in gov’t. Repub neo-cons are anything but. Dems are actually closer to what would be traditional conservatives, but still a long way off. Conservatism seems mostly dead in gov’t.

          • Comment December 24, 2018 at 8:10 pm

            b&f, maybe it was Mr. Plant that was talking about how expensive my fruits are going to be if we start deporting. Honestly, I can’t remember.

            Plant, sure thing, let’s just let masses of illegal hispanics invade us and colonize us because that will totally make up for what was done to Native Indians by european colonists. Yeah, right!

  • utahdiablo December 23, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Good.. keep it the hell shut down… Mitch can use the Nuclear Option of 51 votes to pass this before 2019….this country is going to hell faster than I can type this, because of the 22 Million illegal aliens turning this country into the same trash crap hole they came from

    • iceplant December 24, 2018 at 7:40 am

      McConnell has already said he won’t use the nuclear option. Apparently, you didn’t get the memo.
      And now we’re up to 22 million illegals? Let me guess, they all voted for Hillary too? Those lies you tell are pretty big.

      • bikeandfish December 24, 2018 at 9:28 am

        When the president doesn’t care about facts why should his followers? Trump’s strategy works with his base.

        • iceplant December 24, 2018 at 10:58 am

          What’s that famous comedian say? Ron White, I believe. “You can’t fix stupid.” He’s right.
          We’re up against people who believe in and promote conspiracy theories and lack even the most basic common sense or rationalizing skills. I’m not saying that to be mean either. It’s the damned truth.

          I try to be optimistic but lately, my optimism has been curbed by sheer animosity and anger. People who deny facts outright and then lie to you repeatedly about those very facts are becoming less and less worth the time. Fools make my head hurt. There’s plenty of them and I don’t suffer.

          They’re ALL about to get a rude awakening in 2019 when the oversight begins and Trump’s world crumbles. But they’ll deny it all as it happens in front of their faces. Seems as if this is all a reality TV show and they can’t wait for the bad guy to win. And he won’t because he’s already lost.

          • KR567 December 24, 2018 at 4:42 pm

            Get a hobby

          • iceplant December 24, 2018 at 5:54 pm

            I have several.
            One of yours is trolling my comments, obviously.
            Maybe you ought to take your own advice.

      • Redbud December 24, 2018 at 9:31 am

        Merry Trumpmas!

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