With stalemate in Congress, a shutdown could last until new Congress takes over

Stock photo ID: 134176955 By Richard Cavalleri 

It may take a new session of Congress to end a stalemate over border wall funding.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said on Dec. 17 that he is "not very optimistic that Democrats are going to yield in providing $5 billion" in funding for a proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

That's also where Democrats left things in their recent public comments.

"President Trump should understand: there are not the votes for the wall in the House or the Senate. He is not going to get the wall in any form," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC's Meet the Press on Dec. 16. "Even the House -- which is majority Republican -- they don't have the votes for his 5 billion dollar wall plan."

If legislators and President Donald Trump can't agree on spending bills or a continuing resolution by Dec. 21, the departments of Agriculture, State, Homeland Security, Interior, Commerce, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, as well as the General Services Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, will suffer a lapse in appropriations. This would force those agencies to suspend many non-essential functions, and put hundreds of thousands of federal employees on furlough.

Agencies are holding shutdown prep meetings and federal employees with scheduled time off after Dec. 21 are signing furlough letters.

Meadows said he doesn't want to kick the can with another continuing resolution until after the holidays.

"What makes January any better than December 21?" Meadows said. "I'm willing to stay here through Christmas to get it done right on behalf of the American people."

However, as the New York Times reports, getting the large number of retiring or defeated House Republicans to show up for a vote during the last days of the lame duck session of Congress could be difficult for leadership. That means any shutdown, once triggered, would likely last at least until the new Congress, with a Democratic House of Representatives, opens on Jan. 4.

Looming over the shutdown talk is Trump's insistence that he would be "proud" to shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for the wall. In a testy scene aired on live television, Trump, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sparred about funding issues.

"I am proud to shut down the government for border security," Trump said. "I'm not going to blame you for it. I'll take the mantle of shutting down."

But in the Senate, few Republicans appear to have the same appetite for a shutdown.

"I still think it's better to not have any sort of, even a partial shutdown, whether it's over Christmas or anytime. I don't think people benefit by that," said Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the leadership.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has suggested a continuing resolution that keeps the government open until Jan. 3, or an extended resolution that lasts until the end of February.

"We're at an impasse, so something's going to have to happen or we're going to have a CR or a shutdown," Shelby told reporters last week.

It's not clear whether Trump will be taking part in funding negotiations this week. He's scheduled to leave Dec. 21 for a 16-day Christmas vacation at his Florida club, Mar-a-Lago.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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