Congress starts first day of shutdown with modest hope

Lawmakers are returning to the Capitol on Saturday in the hopes of finding a deal to end the partial government shutdown that began at midnight, but major differences remain over funding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE's border wall.

The Senate and House convened at noon Saturday, but votes on a deal to reopen federal agencies next week may not happen until Sunday or later, guaranteeing that large swaths of the federal government will remain closed for at least a day.

White House officials and congressional leaders are expected to negotiate throughout the day Saturday after failing to reach a deal Friday night. Both chambers adjourned and lawmakers left the Capitol hours before the midnight deadline to avert a funding lapse.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor on Saturday that the talks would take place primarily between Trump and his team and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall MORE (N.Y.). 

ADVERTISEMENT

“We pushed the pause button until the president, from whom we will need a signature, and Senate Democrats, from whom we will need votes, reach an agreement,” he said. 

Senate leaders reached a procedural deal Friday to hold off from political messaging votes on re-opening the government until all sides reach a deal.

McConnell said he hoped an agreement would come in time to reopen federal agencies before Christmas. 

“It’s my hope that it’s reached sooner rather than later,” he said. 

Schumer, however, speaking on the floor shortly after McConnell insisted that the Senate GOP leader and House Republican leaders would also have to be at the center of the talks. 

“In order for an agreement to be reached, all four congressional leaders must sign off and the president must endorse it and say that he will sign it,” Schumer said, adding that GOP leaders “cannot duck responsibility.” 

“Leader McConnell can’t duck out of this process. He knows that,” Schumer added. “And most importantly the president must publicly support and say he’ll sign an agreement before it gets a vote in either chamber.” 

The House convened briefly at noon and then immediately recessed subject to the call of the chair. No votes are expected in the lower chamber Saturday. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (R-Calif.) told colleagues Friday evening that he would give them “ample” time to review an announced deal before holding a vote. Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTexas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland MORE’s (R-La.) office also told members they would get 24-hours notice before a vote.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Top 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown MORE (R-Texas), however, told reporters Saturday morning that any deal would likely be approved on the floor without a roll-call vote. 

“They’re not gonna pull people back,” Sessions told a small group of reporters as he wheeled his luggage through the Capitol en route to the airport.

The shutdown, which technically began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, affects about 25 percent of the federal government, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury, among others.

An estimated 380,000 federal employees will be furloughed during the shutdown while an estimated 420,000 employees will be required to work without pay, including Transportation Security Administration officials who are essential to keeping airports operating during the busy holiday travel season. 

The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo Friday ordering agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” 

Trump has sent mixed signals over how long the shutdown may last. 

The president warned Friday morning that it “will last for a very long time” but in a later video message released as it became clear a shutdown would happen the president said “the shutdown hopefully will not last long.” 

Many lawmakers from the East Coast have gone home for the weekend to districts in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. Other lawmakers said they would traveling home Saturday morning after seeing no movement overnight.

Both sides have traded blame for the shutdown.

Trump tweeted on Friday that “Democrats now own the shutdown” and in his video message said “it’s really up to the Democrats because we need their votes.”  

He also announced he is hosting a lunch at the White House residence with a “large group concerning Border Security,” a sign that the president plans to hammer Democrats a while on the issue before signing off on a funding bill. 

Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win Congress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks MORE (Calif.) issued a statement just after midnight declaring, “regrettably, America has now entered a Trump shutdown.”

"President Trump has said more than 25 times that he wanted a shutdown and now he has gotten what he wanted," they said.

Senate Republicans, who are eager to quickly end the standoff and get out of town, are pushing a deal that would provide $1.6 billion in funding for border fencing — an amount that Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to earlier this year — but they have dropped a proposal to give Trump an additional $1 billion in funding for immigration-related matters. 

A Republican senator familiar with the latest round of offers to Democrats say their latest would provide $1.6 billion for border fencing “and other things” but drop the catch-all spending account that Schumer has panned as a “slush fund.”

Schumer endorsed the $1.6 billion funding level for border fencing immediately after Thanksgiving but later backed off the number after coming under pressure from House Democrats. He told reporters last week that “the $1.6 [billion] we believe could not pass the House."

House Democratic Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Winners and losers in the border security deal Overnight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents MORE (Md.) on Saturday said a deal could hinge on whether extra funding is designated for border fencing or more generally for border security.

“It ought to be pretty clear to the president that he doesn’t have the votes for a wall, he does have votes for strengthening border security through technological means, personnel means, in another number of ways. And that’s not going to change between now and whenever,” Hoyer told Fox News. 

“It would I think be in the best interest of the country and I think the best interest of the president and Congress if we come to agreement in the next 24, 48 hours,” he added. 

Recognizing the possibility of a deal may hinge on semantics, Trump has started to shift his language away from imagery of a solid wall, which Democrats say is a non-starter, to the concept of “steel slats.”

Trump on Friday tweeted an illustration of a “Steel Slat Barrier” that he touted as “totally effective while at the same time beautiful.”

Schumer on Saturday called on Trump to altogether drop his demand for a border wall. 

“President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall, plain and simple. The Senate’s not interested in swindling American taxpayers for an unnecessary, ineffective and wasteful policy,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. 

“What we do support, Democrats and Republicans, is real effective border security but not a wall. The wall is President Trump’s bone to the hard right,” he added. 

Schumer said Democrats “are also open to discussing any proposals with the president as long as they don’t include funding for the wall.” 

Trump’s negotiating team — Vice President Pence, incoming White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Trump declares national emergency at border Puerto Rico governor threatens legal action over national emergency declaration: 'See you in court' MORE and White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Rule change sharpens Dem investigations into Trump Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry MORE — spent Friday afternoon shuttling between the offices of Schumer and outgoing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) to lay the groundwork of an agreement. 

There’s skepticism that House conservatives would embrace $1.6 billion for border fencing as an acceptable compromise, but some GOP lawmakers are eager for any marginal improvement to the $1.3 billion 2018 funding level for border fencing that would end the shutdown. 

The talks have been complicated by uncertainty over what Trump, who has zigzagged in the past week, would be willing to sign into law.

“The biggest problem is we just don’t know what the president will sign,” said Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.), who on Friday helped broker a procedural deal mandating that the next government funding proposal considered on the Senate floor will have prior signoff from Trump, Senate Republican and Democratic leaders, and the House GOP leadership. 

GOP lawmakers recognize they’ll have less leverage when Democrats take control of the House majority in January. 

“In my business, something’s better than nothing,” Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsCongress starts first day of shutdown with modest hope Senate agrees to last-ditch talks, but no clear path over shutdown Pelosi vows Dem help after GOP ‘meltdown’ on spending bills MORE (R-Texas) said when asked about accepting a border fencing funding number well under the $5.7 billion provided by the House Thursday. 

— Mike Lillis, Scott Wong and Melanie Zanona contributed.

Updated: 1:22 p.m.