Trump, Congress break record for longest shutdown

The partial government shutdown is now officially the longest funding lapse in modern history, surpassing a 21-day record set during the Clinton administration.

The infamous distinction comes as the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, shows no signs of progress toward resolving the protracted fight: talks between President TrumpDonald John TrumpProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Ilhan Omar: GOP response to calls for police reform 'was vicious' White House considers sweeping travel ban on members, families of the Chinese Communist Party: report MORE and Democrats are at a standstill; a last-ditch effort by moderate Senate Republicans to jump-start negotiations derailed; and lawmakers left town until Monday afternoon, ensuring the closure will last at least 24 days.

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The White House and congressional Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHow a progressive populist appears to have toppled Engel MJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments Car on fire near Supreme Court Watch live: Pelosi speaks on coronavirus funding MORE (Calif.) are entrenched in their fight over funding for Trump’s proposed border wall. But when, or how, the stalemate finally breaks remains a mystery to lawmakers and administration officials alike.

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse panel wraps up lightning-fast appropriations for 2021 Jeff Sessions loses comeback bid in Alabama runoff Sessions fights for political life in Alabama runoff MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he could not predict what such a potential deal might look like.

“Well, that is a great question,” Shelby said when asked by The Hill about the path out of the shutdown. “That is a central question facing all of us. We don’t know yet. I’ve got some ideas. Everybody’s got some ideas.”

But, he added, until Trump and congressional Democrats start talking, “it’s chaos and kind of a circus.”

Roughly a quarter of the federal government has been shuttered since Dec. 22 after the president signaled he would not sign a seven-week stopgap bill passed by the Senate. A plan by House conservatives to attach $5 billion in wall funding later hit a dead end.

The funding lapse has forced roughly 800,000 federal employees to be furloughed or work without pay. Those government workers missed their first paycheck on Friday.

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Lawmakers are now hoping that the new financial strain on constituents could put pressure on Congress and Trump to strike a deal.

But there are already signs that the shutdown could stretch on for weeks, and potentially into next month.

Administration officials told The Hill that the Office of Management and Budget is gearing up for the partial shutdown to continue through February, and White House aides have discussed using Trump's Jan. 29 State of the Union address to knock Democrats over their opposition to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

House Democrats passed a package earlier this month that would fully reopen the government by funding the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 and the rest of the impacted departments and agencies through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. They’ve also started passing individual appropriations bills.

But those measures will go nowhere in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Pelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments Lincoln Project reports raising .8 million for anti-Trump efforts MORE (R-Ky.) has pledged he will not take up a bill unless it has the president’s support. On Thursday he blocked the House package to fully reopen the government after Democrats tried to pass the measure.

“The last thing we need to do right now is trade pointless — absolutely pointless — show votes back and forth across the aisle,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

Several Senate Republicans have publicly backed passing either the individual House bills or a continuing resolution to fully reopen the government while Democrats and Trump fight it out over the border wall. So far, no GOP senators have gone to the floor to try to force a vote on those measures.

“Shutting down the government is not governing. Nobody is winning in this,” Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiIllinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment' Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (R-Alaska) said in a floor speech before the Senate wrapped up its work on Friday.

Trump, meanwhile, is seesawing over whether he would declare migration along the southern border a national emergency. The move would allow him to try to repurpose money from other parts of the federal budget to fund construction of the wall.

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The president told reporters at the White House on Friday that while he has the authority to use the declaration to jump-start wall construction, he’s “not going to do it so fast.”

“It's the easy way out, but Congress should do this,” he said, adding he would “rather not” because the declaration could face court challenges that would delay construction for months.

Trump has been flirting with the emergency declaration as his escape hatch from the funding fight. He told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “if we don’t make a deal with Congress, most likely I will do that.”

Some of Trump’s closest allies are publicly urging him to go that route, arguing Democrats will never approve wall funding. The president walked out of a White House meeting on Wednesday when Pelosi told him that she would not discuss wall funding even if he first agreed to fully reopen the government.

“They hate President Trump more than they want to fix problems — even problems they acknowledged to be real and serious in the past,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamNavarro-Fauci battle intensifies, to detriment of Trump McConnell says he has 'total' confidence in Fauci Dancing with no rhythm: Republican candidates resemble Elaine on Seinfeld MORE (R-S.C.) said in a statement Friday after a meeting with Trump. “Democrats will do everything in their power to defeat Trump in 2020.”

“Mr. President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now,” Graham added.

But the idea has received public pushback from Senate Republicans and Trump’s conservative allies in the House who warn that it will get bogged down in a court challenge and set a precedent for future Democratic presidents.

“I think the president should not do it,” Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyIllinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment' Trump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Big Ten moves to conference-only model for all fall sports MORE (R-Iowa) told reporters on Friday. “I think as a member of Congress I ought to be very selfish about the constitutional powers that we have to appropriate money. I think it might be a bad precedent.”

If he were to take such a step, Democrats would likely challenge his actions in court. They would also be able to force votes on a resolution of disapproval and need only a simple majority to try to block Trump.

Schumer said while he believed a declaration would get struck down in court, he and Pelosi are open to legislative options.

“I think legally it would be blocked,” Schumer said during an interview with the podcast “Pod Save America.” 

“But you know Nancy and I have talked about it,” he said, “and we'd look at any legislative way to stop it as well."