Last-ditch effort to end US shutdown as blame-game continues

Donald Trump suggests that Republicans should change Senate rules to allow spending Bill by a simple majority

Senate minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Republicans had failed to lead, despite controlling Congress and the White House. Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senate minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Republicans had failed to lead, despite controlling Congress and the White House. Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

 

US senators were preparing for a late-night vote on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to end the government shutdown, as both parties continued to blame the other for the political crisis.

The federal government officially shut down on Friday at midnight, after a short-term funding Bill failed to gather enough votes to pass in the Senate. With Republicans controlling just 52 seats in the 100-member chamber, they needed Democratic support to reach the 60 votes required to pass the Bill.

But most Democrats refused, arguing that protection for Dreamers – young people who were brought illegally to the United States when they were children – should be included in the Bill.

President Donald Trump, who spent the weekend in Washington after he was forced to cancel a planned trip to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, suggested on Twitter that Republicans should change Senate rules to allow the Bill by a simple majority.

He also praised Republicans for “fighting for our military and safety at the border”, while he said Democrats “just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked”.

With thousands of employees due to return to work on Monday, it was uncertain whether government agencies would open, amid deep divisions between both parties on a solution to the deal.

‘Tangential issue’

Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, said that while some agencies would be closed, the impact would be contained. “We’ll work to keep as many agencies open as we can,” he said, adding “effects won’t be as visible as they were in 2013... Most Americans won’t see a difference.”

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he would hold a vote on the Bill at 1am on Monday morning if agreement was not reached before then.

The House and the Senate met in emergency sessions throughout the weekend but there was little sign of bipartisan support for some form of short-term legislative measure that would restore the government to regular business.

Representatives from both parties took to the Senate floor on Sunday to air their grievances on the issue.

Mr McConnell accused Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, of shutting down the government to please a small portion of his base, and focusing on a “tangential issue related to illegal immigration”.

“We were poised to send him a compromise solution and erase the threat of a shutdown, but my friend across the aisle has shut down the government for hundreds of millions of Americans because you didn’t get everything you wanted in one meeting on Friday with the president,” he said. He argued that issues relating to DACA – the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals scheme which gave protection to Dreamers – should be dealt with separately than the funding Bill.

Border wall

Mr Schumer said that the Republicans had failed to lead, despite controlling Congress and the White House.

“We now enter day two of the first real government shutdown ever to take place when one party controlled the presidency, the House and the Senate. Under this unified control, it was the Republican job to govern, it was their job to lead … they have failed. Our democracy was designed to run on compromise, the Senate was designed to run on compromise.”

He added: “Not only did they not consult us, they can’t get on the same page as their own president.”

He said he had offered to consider funding for Mr Trump’s proposed border wall during his meeting with the president in the Oval Office on Friday, but that the president had not responded with a deal. He said that only the president could end the shutdown. Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, also urged the president to “come to the table” to resolve the issue.