Administration

Shutdown fight turns ugly as both sides dig in

Greg Nash

Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill lashed out at each other on Day One of the government shutdown Saturday, trading barbs and casting blame as a resolution to the funding impasse seemed nowhere in sight.

The rhetoric took a harsh turn, with Democrats complaining that President Trump is an erratic, unreliable negotiating partner and Republicans bemoaning Democrats’ intransigence over what the GOP sees as unreasonable immigration demands.

“Both sides are dug in. … I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re here tomorrow,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) told The Hill after huddling with fellow House Democrats in the basement of the Capitol.

Both chambers are in session Saturday — a rare weekend workday when many lawmakers were griping about risking vacation plans and overseas trips. But no votes are scheduled to reopen the government as the sides continue to air their grievances in press conferences and on cable news shows.

With neither Republicans nor Democrats willing to budge, congressional leaders let the insults fly on Capitol Hill and it increasingly looked like the shutdown would run into the work week, furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters trying to work out a deal with Trump was like “negotiating with Jell-O,” while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used a floor speech to decry Trump’s “all-around incompetence” and “inefficiency.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), meanwhile, placed blame for the shutdown solely at the feet of Senate Democrats: “One party in one house of this Congress is deliberately holding this government hostage.”

Added Trump on Twitter: “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”

After the House Democratic Caucus meeting, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he’s increasingly “pessimistic about reopening the government in any kind of expeditious way.”

The reason?

“Largely because of the intransigence of Republican leadership,” he said.

Neither party appeared to even agree on what should be the first step to ending the government shutdown.

Republicans insisted that the government needed to reopen before they would resume negotiations on immigration. Members of both parties have been in talks about shielding immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation in exchange for enhanced border security.

The Trump administration first made plans to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted temporary work permits for some of those immigrants, last year.

“We want to address the issue of the DACA recipients and the reforms necessary to close loopholes and make sure our borders are secure. But it’s got to be done in an environment where somebody isn’t holding people hostage over that,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has been in talks with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said “we’ll go back to the table when the government’s back open.”

GOP leaders, particularly Ryan, have been adamantly opposed to attaching any DACA provision to a spending bill, saying it’s an independent issue that should be addressed separately.

“We have been, and we continue to be, willing to work together in good faith on immigration,” Ryan said Saturday on the House floor.

Pelosi, meanwhile, insisted that lawmakers need to agree on parity between defense and nondefense spending, disaster relief, a path for DACA and other priorities before supporting another stopgap measure, or continuing resolution (CR).

“It’s no use having another CR unless we have the terms of engagement of how we go forward on the … parity, on the pay-fors, on the pensions, on the DACA and on the border security,” Pelosi said at a press conference in the Capitol.

The three-week spending proposal offered by Senate GOP leaders includes a promise to vote on a DACA bill by Feb. 8. But many Democrats are quick to note that a vote in the upper chamber is no guarantee that Ryan would take it up. Indeed, the Speaker has said he won’t support any measure that doesn’t have the backing of the president, and Trump last week rejected the bipartisan DACA deal secured by Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Many House Democrats are hinging their support for a CR on stronger assurances that DACA protections become law.

“Let’s say they give them a vote in the Senate. It doesn’t solve the impasse if Republicans in the House [don’t follow suit],” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Saturday.

“This is going to take Speaker Ryan to say, ‘I will give them a vote.’ ”

Alexander Bolton contributed

Tags Bill Pascrell Bob Goodlatte Charles Schumer Dick Durbin Donald Trump Gerry Connolly Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Steny Hoyer
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