Government shutdown begins and so does the finger-pointing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans awoke Saturday to learn that quarreling politicians in Washington had failed to keep their government in business, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration.

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The Capitol is seen on the first day of a government shutdown after a divided Senate rejected a funding measure, in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


 

It was a striking display of Washington dysfunction, and the finger-pointing came quickly. Trump tweeted that Democrats "wanted to give me a nice present" to mark the start of his second year in office.

The Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin considering a three-week version of a short-term spending measure and to broadcast to the people they serve that they were at work as the closure commenced. It seemed likely that each side would push for votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies.

Trump spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell early Saturday to discuss next steps, while chief of staff John Kelly also worked the phones. Top White House negotiators, legislative affairs director Marc Short and budget director Mick Mulvaney, went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Republicans.

Democrats say they oppose the three-week plan, which they view as a way to stall negotiations over the future of the "Dreamers" — the young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and facing possible deportation when their protection expires in March. Republicans declared they would not reopen talks until the government shutdown ends, a strategy aimed at trying to erode Democratic cohesion.

"Negotiations will not go on until we open the government up and start being serious about the fundamental issue that is before us all," Rep. Mark Meadows, a conservative leader, said Saturday.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Saturday on the House floor that Trump had earned an F for "failure in leadership." She said Republicans are "so incompetent and negligent that they couldn't get it together to keep the government open."

The fourth government shutdown in a quarter-century began at the stroke of midnight Friday, shortly after Senate Democrats blocked a four-week budget extension and a flurry of last-minute negotiations could not beat the clock.

The closure began at the start of a weekend, so many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans. Damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged. And it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for Trump and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.

Trump said Democrats "could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead." In a series of tweets hours after the shutdown began, the president tried to make the case for Americans to elect more Republicans to Congress in November "in order to power through this mess." He noted that there are 51 Republicans in the 100-member Senate, and it often takes 60 votes to advance legislation.

Social Security and most other safety-net programs are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late Friday night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

Democrats balked in an effort to put pressure on the White House to cut a deal to protect immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally — commonly called "Dreamers" — before their legal protection runs out in March.

Democrats are laying fault for the shutdown on Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House and have struggled with building internal consensus. Republicans are holding Democrats responsible after they declined to provide the votes needed to overcome a filibuster over their desire to force the passage of legislation to protect some 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

"Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous" border with Mexico, Trump tweeted.

Republicans branded the confrontation a "Schumer shutdown," after New York's Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader. He said a "Trump shutdown" was more accurate.

Earlier Friday, Trump had brought Schumer to the White House in hopes of cutting a deal on a short-term spending agreement.

The two New Yorkers, who pride themselves on their negotiating abilities, started talking over cheeseburgers about a larger agreement that would have included greater military spending and money for a Southern border wall. But the talks fell apart almost as abruptly as they started.

Nonetheless, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney predicted a deal would be reached by Monday, when most government offices are to reopen after the weekend.

Trump had been an unreliable negotiator in the weeks leading up to the showdown. Earlier this week he tweeted opposition to the four-week plan, forcing the White House to later affirm his support. He expressed openness to extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, only to reject a bipartisan proposal. His disparaging remarks about African and Haitian immigrants last week helped derail further negotiations.

Trump had been set to leave Friday afternoon to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate marking the inauguration anniversary but delayed his travel.

The last shutdown came in 2013. Tea party Republicans, in a strategy not unlike the one Schumer is employing now, sought to use a must-pass budget bill to try to force President Barack Obama to delay implementation of his health care law. At the time, Trump told "Fox & Friends" that the ultimate blame for a shutdown lies at the top. "I really think the pressure is on the president," he said.

Arguing that Trump's predecessors "weaponized" that shutdown, Mulvaney said his budget office would direct agencies to work to mitigate the impact this time. That position is a striking role reversal for the conservative former congressman who was one of the architects of the 2013 shutdown.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Richard Lardner, Matthew Daly and Catherine Lucey in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.


AP Explains: Congress has shut down the govt. Now what?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government shutdown began at midnight Friday as Democrats and Republicans failed to resolve a standoff over immigration and spending. Here's a look at what the parties are fighting over and what it means to shut down the government.

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WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS FIGHTING ABOUT?

Since the end of the fiscal year in September, the government has been operating on temporary funding measures. The current one expired at midnight. Republicans and Democrats have not been able to agree on spending levels for the rest of the year, so another short-term measure is the most likely solution. The House has passed a four-week bill Thursday that also extends funding for a children's health insurance program.

But Democrats have been saying for weeks they want a funding measure to be tied to an immigration deal that protects the thousands of young immigrants facing deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to expire March 5, and members of both parties have been working on an extension that would also beef up border protection.

That deal has not come together, and Democrats have decided to dig in. They blocked the House-passed bill. Both sides were still negotiating early Saturday.

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THEY'VE BLOWN THE DEADLINE. NOW WHAT?

The government begins to shut down. But not all of the government.

The air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans' health care and many other essential government programs will run as usual. The Social Security Administration will not only send out benefits but will also continue to take applications — though replacements for lost Social Security cards could have to wait. The Postal Service, which is self-funded, will keep delivering the mail. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will continue to respond to last year's spate of disasters.

The Interior Department says national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. The stance is a change from previous shutdowns when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols.

Spokeswoman Heather Swifts says the American public — especially veterans who come to the nation's capital — should find war memorials and open-air parks open to visitors. Swift says many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.

The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will stay open through the weekend but close Monday.

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DO FEDERAL WORKERS GET PAID?

While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can't get paid for days worked during a lapse in funding. In the past, however, they have been repaid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.

Rush hour in downtown Washington, meanwhile, becomes a breeze. Tens of thousands of federal workers are off the roads.

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HOW OFTEN DID THIS HAPPEN IN THE PAST?

Way back in the day, shutdowns usually weren't that big a deal. They happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, averaging 11 days each. During Ronald Reagan's two terms, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece. Deals got cut. Everybody moved on.

The last one was a 16-day partial shuttering of the government in 2013, which came as tea party conservatives, cheered on by outside groups like Heritage Action, demanded that language to block implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law be added to a must-do funding bill.

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WHO WILL GET THE BLAME?

In a 1995-96 political battle, President Bill Clinton bested House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his band of budget-slashing conservatives, who were determined to use a shutdown to force Clinton to sign onto a balanced budget agreement. Republicans were saddled with the blame, but most Americans suffered relatively minor inconveniences like closed parks and delays in processing passport applications. The fight bolstered Clinton's popularity and he sailed to re-election that November.

In 2013, the tea party Republicans forced the shutdown over the better judgment of GOP leaders like then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Republicans tried to fund the government piecemeal — for example, by forcing through legislation to ensure military service members got paid. But a broader effort faltered, and Republicans eventually backed down and supported a round of budget talks led by Paul Ryan, R-Wis., then chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Republicans are calling the current standoff the "Schumer Shutdown," arguing that there's nothing in the bill that Democrats oppose, while a short-term extension would give lawmakers time to work out differences on issues like protecting young immigrants and disaster assistance. Schumer says the GOP's unwillingness to compromise has brought Congress to this point. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted earlier this week found 48 percent view Trump and congressional Republicans as mainly responsible for the situation while 28 percent fault Democrats. If the shutdown drags on for long, it could give voters another reason to turn away from incumbents of both parties in a mid-term election.


Government shutdown: What's closed, who's affected

By RICHARD LARDNER ,  Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of federal employees began their weekends gripped with doubt, uncertain of when they'll be able to return to work and how long they'll have to go without being paid after a bitter political dispute in Washington triggered a government shutdown.

Many government operations will continue — U.S. troops will stay at their posts and mail will get delivered. But almost half the 2 million civilian federal workers will be barred from doing their jobs if the shutdown extends into Monday.

The longer the shutdown continues, the more likely its impact will be felt. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Republicans and Democrats share the blame.

"Political gamesmanship, an unwillingness to compromise, and a lack of resolve on both sides have led us to this point," McCain said in a statement Saturday.

How key parts of the federal government would be affected by a shutdown:

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INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

A shutdown plan posted on the Treasury Department's website shows that nearly 44 percent of the IRS' 80,565 employees will be exempt from being furloughed during a shutdown. That would mean nearly 45,500 IRS employees will be sent home just as the agency is preparing for the start of the tax filing season and ingesting the sweeping changes made by the new GOP tax law.

The Republican architects of the tax law have promised that millions of working Americans will see heftier paychecks next month, with less money withheld by employers in anticipation of lower income taxes. The IRS recently issued new withholding tables for employers.

But Marcus Owens, who for 10 years headed the IRS division dealing with charities and political organizations, said it's a "virtual certainty" that the larger paychecks will be delayed if there's a lengthy government shutdown.

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HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT

Half of the more than 80,000 employees will be sent home. Key programs will continue to function because their funding has ongoing authorization and doesn't depend on annual approval by Congress. But critical disruptions could occur across the vast jurisdiction of HHS programs — including the seasonal flu program.

Medicare, which insures nearly 59 million seniors and disabled people, will keep going. And so will Medicaid, which covers more than 74 million low-income and disabled people, including most nursing home residents.

States will continue to receive payments for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers about 9 million kids. However, long-term funding for the program will run out soon unless Congress acts to renew it.

Deep into a tough flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be unable to support the government's annual seasonal flu program. And CDC's ability to respond to disease outbreaks will be significantly reduced.

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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Many of the nearly 115,000 Justice Department employees have national security and public safety responsibilities that allow them to keep working during a shutdown. Special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election will also continue working. His office is paid for indefinitely.

The more than 95,000 employees who are "exempted" include most of the members of the national security division, U.S. attorneys, and most of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service and federal prison employees. Criminal cases will continue, but civil cases will be postponed as long as doing so doesn't compromise public safety. Most law enforcement training will be canceled, per the department's contingency plan.

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STATE DEPARTMENT

Many State Department operations will continue in a shutdown. Passport and visa processing, which are largely self-funded by consumer fees, will not shut down. The agency's main headquarters in Washington, in consultation with the nearly 300 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions around the world, will draw up lists of nonessential employees who will be furloughed.

Department operations will continue through the weekend and staffers will be instructed to report for work as usual on Monday to find out whether they have been furloughed.

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DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

The U.S. military will continue to fight wars and conduct missions around the world, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. And members of the military will report to work, though they won't get paid until Congress approves funding.

Mattis said in a departmentwide memo Friday that "ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa and South Asia."

But Mattis said during remarks on Friday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that a shutdown will still have far-reaching effects on the Defense Department.

Weapons and equipment maintenance will shut down, military intelligence operations would stop and training for most of the reserve force would be put on hold, he said. And any National Guard forces heading out to do weekend training duty around the country will arrive at armories and be told to go home.

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U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

The workforce at the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies will be pared down significantly, according to a person familiar with contingency procedures.

The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said employees who are considered essential and have to work will do so with no expectation of a regular paycheck.

While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can't be paid for days worked during a shutdown. In the past, however, they have been paid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.

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HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT

A department spokesman said nearly 90 percent of Homeland Security employees are considered essential and will continue to perform their duties during a government shutdown.

That means most Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration workers will stay on the job, according to the department's shutdown plan, dated Friday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be staffed at about 78 percent, meaning more than 15,000 of the agency's employees will keep working. The Secret Service, also part of Homeland Security, will retain more than 5,700 employees during the shutdown.

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INTERIOR DEPARTMENT

The Interior Department said national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. That position is a change from previous shutdowns, when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols of dysfunction.

Spokeswoman Heather Swift said the American public — especially veterans who come to the nation's capital — should find war memorials and open-air parks available to visitors. Swift said many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.

She said public roads that already are open are likely to remain open, though services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds, full-service restrooms and concessions won't be operating. Backcountry lands and culturally sensitive sites are likely to be restricted or closed, she said.

Yet the shutdown had an instant impact on two of the world's top tourist destinations: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The National Park Service announced that both New York sites would be closed Saturday "due to a lapse in appropriations." The park service said the closure of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island was effective immediately and until further notice.

For ticket refunds, visitors were instructed to contact the Statue Cruises company that runs ferries to the statue and Ellis Island, the historic entry point in New York Harbor for immigrants to the United States that is now a museum.

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TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT

More than half — 34,600 — of the Department of Transportation's 55,100 employees will continue working during a shutdown. The bulk of those staying on the job work for the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the nation's air traffic control system.

Controllers and aviation, pipeline and railroad safety inspectors are among those who would continue to work.

But certification of new aircraft will be limited, and processing of airport construction grants, training of new controllers, registration of planes, air traffic control modernization research and development, and issuance of new pilot licenses and medical certificates will stop.

At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigations on auto safety defects will be suspended, incoming information on possible defects from manufacturers and consumers won't be reviewed and compliance testing of vehicles and equipment will be delayed.

The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, whose operations are mostly paid for out of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, will continue most of their functions. The fund's revenue comes from federal gas and diesel taxes, which will continue to be collected. But work on issuing new regulations will stop throughout the department and its nine agencies.

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NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the agency's infectious disease chief, said a government shutdown will be disruptive to research and morale at the National Institutes of Health but will not adversely affect patients already in medical studies.

"We still take care of them," he said of current NIH patients. But other types of research would be seriously harmed, Fauci said.

A shutdown could mean interrupting research that's been going on for years, Fauci said. The NIH is the government's primary agency responsible for biomedical and public health research across 27 institutes and centers. Its research ranges from cancer studies to the testing and creation of vaccines.

"You can't push the pause button on an experiment," he said.

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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has instructed workers there to come to work next week even with a shutdown. Pruitt said in an email to all EPA employees on Friday that the agency had "sufficient resources to remain open for a limited amount of time." He said further instructions would come if the shutdown lasts for more than a week.

The instructions from Pruitt are different from how the agency has operated during prior shutdowns and the contingency plan posted on EPA's website. A spokesman for the agency said earlier on Friday that the December 2017 plan was no longer valid.

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Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman, Joan Lowy, Michael Biesecker, Lolita Baldor, Andrew Taylor, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Laurie Kellman, Deb Riechmann, Matthew Lee and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.