(Bloomberg) — The partial U.S. government shutdown over border wall funding entered its ninth day on Sunday, President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for the death of two children, and all parties await the start of the new Congress in January for a possible resolution.
Trump on Saturday blamed Democrats “and their pathetic immigration policies” for “any deaths of children or others” in U.S. custody at the border, a ramp-up in rhetoric over wall funding. Absent “10 Democrat votes,” the president said on Twitter, “we have to do it the hard way, with a Shutdown.” “I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security,” Trump tweeted earlier. On Friday night, Trump dined at Vice President Mike Pence’s residence with Pence, incoming Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and adviser Jared Kushner, a White House aide said. Trump was at the residence for about two hours. Trump late Friday issued an executive order freezing pay for federal employees in 2019. It could still be overruled by Congress. “This is just pouring salt into the wound,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. NTEU represents 150,000 workers across various agencies. Some 14,000 workers from the Environmental Protection Agency were put on furlough after the EPA exhausted funds on hand to continue operations. Coast Guard service members almost missed their final paychecks of 2018 but at the last moment the service found a way to pay its military workforce in a “one-time action,” according to a Coast Guard workforce blog. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, called the White House on Friday urging an “immediate fix” and termed the outcome “good news.” There’s little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the standoff before the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.Trump is demanding $5 billion for the wall, while Democratic leaders proposed $1.3 billion for border security. The Senate and House are set to hold brief sessions Monday but no votes are scheduled. Lawmakers will be given 24 hours notice if there’s a breakthrough that would require a vote.If the standoff continues, all workers in the nine departments and dozens of agencies affected by the closure will miss their next paycheck on Jan. 11.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have been negotiating with the Trump administration. Once they reach agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll seek a vote on the deal. Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3, when Nancy Pelosi, who’s in line to become speaker, says the chamber will pass a spending bill to reopen the government — without money for a wall.
The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, affects nine of the 15 federal departments, dozens of agencies, and hundreds of thousands of workers.Among the departments without funding are: Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Treasury. Independent agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, are also affected.The departments whose funding lapsed represent about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in government discretionary spending for fiscal year 2019.An estimated 400,000 federal employees are working without pay and 350,000 are furloughed, according to a congressional Democratic aide.Federal employees working without pay and those now furloughed got their Dec. 28 paychecks under a decision by the White House budget office since pay reflects work before Dec. 21. The remaining parts of the government, including the Defense Department and the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, were already funded and won’t be affected by the shutdown, nor will mandatory entitlement programs like Medicare payments.
—With assistance from Erik Wasson and Todd Shields.
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