The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday – halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunction.
Senate Republicans fell far short of passing a procedural motion that would have kept the federal government funded, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century. The final vote was 50-49.
Five Democrats who represent Trump-country red states crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans, but the GOP lost four of its own, erasing any doubts about the state of partisan bickering in the US Capitol.
While the clerk held the vote open – Republicans John McCain and Mitch McConnell refrained from voting so nothing could be finalized – a bipartisan group of 15 senators huddled on the Senate floor to discuss a path forward.
The recalcitrant Democrats included four who are up for re-election this year – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri – along with Alabamian Doug Jones, who took his Senate seat just days ago in a bright red state.
Despite hours of attempted negotiations, talks failed and the shutdown was finalized, and quickly the blame game began.
Just after midnight on Saturday morning the White House released a statement, calling Democrats ‘obstructionist losers’ who ‘put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans’.
‘We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators,’ the statement reads, before promising that during the shutdown Trump will continue to work for the American people.
Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in on his way to Israel – blasting Senate Democrats for the congressional failure to keep the government open.
In a statement he said: ‘Our administration will do everything within our power to support the brave men and women in uniform who stand on the frontlines of freedom. But as of tonight, due to a completely avoidable government shutdown, they’ll stand their post without pay.’
McConnell and Schumer each took the floor after the shutdown was finalized Friday night – with each lawmaker attempting to paint the opposition party as guilty.
‘The decision by Senate Democrats to shove aside millions of Americans for the sake of irresponsible political gain was 100 percent avoidable,’ McConnell said.
He claimed that the Democrats held the opposition party ‘hostage’ ‘over the completely unrelated issue of illegal immigration.’
‘We’re gonna keep on voting. The government may be headed into a shutdown, but the Senate is not shutting down. The American people expect better from us than this.’
Schumer took the floor just after his opponent – immediately blaming McConnell for pushing through the vote when he knew he didn’t have the numbers to back it up.
The seasoned Democrat explained that he met with Trump earlier in the day, saying he’d put the border wall on the table for discussion in exchange for DACA protections.
‘But even that wasn’t enough,’ he said.
‘The American people know this party is not capable of governing. This will be called the Trump shutdown, because no one deserves blame for the position we find ourselves in other than President Trump.’
But despite Trump’s attempts to paint democrats as the guilty party – recent polls show Republicans and President Trump will bear most of the blame.
A national ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday found 48 percent of people surveyed say they will blame Trump and the GOP for a shutdown, while only 28 percent will blame Democrats.
And another survey by Quinnipiac had similar results – with 32 percent saying they would blame Republicans, 21 percent blaming Trump, and 34 percent blaming Democrats.
Since the shutdown began at the start of a weekend, many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans. But any damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged.
And it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for the president and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.
Even before the vote, President Donald Trump was pessimistic – seeming resigned to presiding over the first shutdown since 2013.
‘Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the dangerous Southern Border,’ Trump tweeted, referring to the hit the Homeland Security Department would take in the event the government’s wheels grind to a halt.
‘Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy,’ the president claimed.
With the Friday’s late-night voting failure, Congress will have failed to keep the lights on in Washington for just the fourth time in a quarter-century.
The White House risks being blamed for the mess that will result as letter-carriers, military contractors and park rangers wonder whether to come to work – and doubt they’ll be paid.
Democrats, too, risk being called obstructionists as the GOP branded the confrontation a ‘Schumer shutdown’ and carped that liberals were holding the entire government’s budget hostage to a demand that ‘illegal immigrants’ receive special treatment.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders was one of the first to use the hashtag Friday night, claiming that Democrats voted against the bill to undermine Trump’s new tax law.
‘Democrats can’t shut down the booming Trump economy. Are they now so desperate they’ll shut down the government instead? #SchumerShutdown,’ she tweeted just before midnight.
Democrats are insisting on a permanent recognition of legal status for hundreds of thousands of people brought to the US illegally as minors, a move that perplexed Republicans since there was no legislative language available that could accomplish it.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era relic, guarantees protection from deportation for so-called ‘DREAMers.’
Trump summoned Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to the White House Friday afternoon in the hope of cutting a deal. But the two New Yorkers emerged without an agreement.
‘We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements,’ Schumer said when he returned to Capitol Hill.
The president called off a planned weekend in Florida where he was to attend a big-ticket gala commemorating his first year in office.
The event at his private Mar-a-Lago resort club commanded as much as $250,000 per couple for Republican campaign coffers. His sons Donald Jr. and Eric are expected to attend in his place.
But ultimately a broad range of federal operations would be curtailed, although food inspections, law enforcement, airport security and other vital services would continue, along with Social Security and military operations.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters that ‘if there’s any good news, it’s a weekend. If we act tomorrow as I think we could, and I think we should, and reach compromises, then we could pass something before the weekend ends and the impact would be minimal.’