Shutdown begins as lawmakers wrestle over Trump's border wall

Congress failed to avert a partial government shutdown on Friday and doesn’t appear to have a clear path forward as lawmakers continue to squabble over funding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE’s border wall.

Senate negotiators from both parties agreed to keep talking in search of an elusive spending deal as the House and Senate adjourned Friday night without an agreement to avoid at least a partial shutdown starting at midnight.

White House budget chief Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing Trump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE, who is also serving as Trump's acting chief of staff, sent a memo to federal agencies instructing them to begin executing plans for a shutdown starting Saturday.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Although we are hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration, employees should report to work for their next regularly scheduled tour of duty to undertake orderly shutdown activities. We will issue another memorandum reopening government functions once the President has signed a bill providing for appropriations," he wrote.

Top White House officials descended on the Capitol on Friday to huddle with Republican leaders in an eleventh-hour search for a breakthrough, but the modest progress wasn’t enough to keep roughly a quarter of the federal government running, resulting in the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal employees just three days before Christmas.

Agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency are all slated to be impacted by the expiring funding.

Trump attempted to reverse course on Friday and blame Democrats for the probable shutdown after the House passed a bill that included $5 billion for his border wall the previous night. The measure was considered dead on arrival in the Senate.

"The majority has acted, the majority sent it to the Senate. In the Senate it takes 60 votes — so it really comes down to one person: Schumer,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe case for congressional pay raises McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters, referring to the Senate Democratic leader.

“Does Schumer want to shut the government down or does he want to make sure we find a compromise? Just a couple of weeks ago he was fine with doing border security. And now he's got a problem with it?" McCarthy said.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, said Trump was the only one to blame for the legislative impasse after he said in a meeting last week with top Democrats that he'd “take the mantle” of a shutdown over his border wall.

The lapse in funding comes amid two days of chaos on Capitol Hill after the president asserted he wouldn't support a bill that didn't include funding for his wall.

Senate Republicans expressed frustration and disbelief at that decision, noting they passed a stopgap measure that didn't include the funding because the White House had previously signaled Trump would sign such a bill.

But Trump, under fire from conservative lawmakers and pundits, reversed course Thursday after a meeting with top House Republicans at the White House.

Vice President Pence, Mulvaney and senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFinancial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Financial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Kim Kardashian West joins Trump at White House event for ex-prisoners MORE met with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.) in an attempt to find a path forward on Friday afternoon.

Pence and Mulvaney then huddled with McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise: I'm glad the administration is taking aggressive cybersecurity action Scalise: I'm glad the administration is taking aggressive cybersecurity action The case for congressional pay raises MORE (R-La.), House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices MORE (R-Ohio) in outgoing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Inside Biden's preparations for first debate MORE’s (R-Wis.) ceremonial office off the House floor.

Following the meeting, McCarthy announced that no votes were scheduled for Saturday, telling lawmakers they will be provided 24 hours' notice before a vote is called.

The House and the Senate both adjourned Friday night, without a deal to avert the shutdown.

McCarthy said he’s advising members to stay in town as they wait for the Senate to take action, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters as he left the Capitol on Friday night that "constructive talks are underway."

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate on Friday voted to take up the House-passed spending bill, but lawmakers said they were doing so only to make room for further negotiations and to allow talks to continue in good faith.

Senators emphasized that the chamber won't vote on another spending bill unless it's one that Democrats and the White House can agree on.

Scalise echoed McCarthy’s sentiments on Friday, arguing the fate of the government reopening lays in the hands of the upper chamber and the White House.

“The president's been open to negotiating. What exactly would those other alternatives be to the bill we passed? That's up to the folks that aren't in agreement with what we passed,” Scalise told The Hill. “I mean we laid out a plan for keeping the government running — if they've got a better plan they should go talk to the president and get an agreement.”

Senate Democrats have been clear they will not support legislation that includes $5 billion for the wall. And while conservatives have been adamant in their calls to meet Trump’s demand, some have expressed openness to supporting a measure that provides $1.6 billion — a figure that is being weighed by members in the upper chamber.

While lawmakers appeared to be on track to recess for the remainder of the year after the Senate on Wednesday passed a stopgap measure that would keep the government funded through Feb. 8, House conservatives amped up pressure on members of their party to reject any measure that doesn’t include the $5 billion.

In a series of special order speeches Wednesday evening, members of the House Freedom Caucus announced they would support the president in vetoing a clean continuing resolution, arguing Congress faces a narrow path in securing border wall funding come January when House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE (Calif.) likely regains the Speaker’s gavel.

House Republicans managed to pass an amended stopgap measure easily that included $5.7 billion in border security and wall funding and $8.7 billion in emergency disaster aid in a 217-185 vote on Thursday night, despite speculation they did not have the votes.

But the House-passed version faced a nearly impossible path in the Senate. Republicans in the upper chamber also quickly rejected a call from Trump for McConnell to "go nuclear" and eliminate the legislative filibuster in order pass the amended measure.

Congress passed five appropriations bills in September, which covered about 75 percent of its annual spending. Those bills provided a combined $1 trillion in funding for the Pentagon and Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Veterans Affairs and the legislative branch, among others. The funded departments will not be affected by a shutdown.

The expiring stopgap measure covered the seven remaining bills, which add up to $325 billion in annual spending. Once the funding expires, the related agencies will have to cease operating except for staff and programs deemed "essential." 

— Niv Elis contributed. Updated Dec. 22 at 12:01 a.m.