The first full day of the January 2018 government shutdown saw a spate of hurried but ultimately fruitless negotiations, and already the White House – which has been accused of exacerbating the problem by constantly shifting its negotiating position – has had enough: In a tweet this morning, President Donald Trump said Republicans should consider invoking “the nuclear option” to eliminate the possibility of an opposition fillibuster – allowing Republicans to pass a long-term spending bill with a simple majority (there are 51 Republican senators).
Right now, the Senate can approve presidential nominees for the courts and executive branch departments with a simple majority, but traditional legislation is still subject to a fillibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.
Kicking off an early morning flurry of tweetstorm, Trump congratulated Republicans in Congress: “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!”
Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2018
Lawmakers in both parties are fighting to win the PR “blamegame” battle, hoping to brand their political opponents as the ones who are ultimately held accountable by the public for the shutdown. Democrats argue that, because Republicans control Congress and the White House, the public will inevitably blame them. Republicans have insisted that Democrats are being “obstructionist” and have sought to label it “the #Schumershutdown” after the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.
Per the Hill, Democrats have complained loudly about the difficulty of negotiating with the president, telling media that Schumer and Trump were close to a deal during a Friday afternoon meeting until conservative Republicans interceded and shut it down. Subsequently, Schumer said that “Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jello.”
Schumer: “Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jello.” (via CBS) pic.twitter.com/zGq2xiIGBc
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 20, 2018
On Sunday, Congress is holding an unusual session that may be lawmakers’ last chance for a quick end to the shutdown, Bloomberg reports.
While the partial shutdown began officially at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, federal agencies are largely waiting until Monday to implement it. That gives lawmakers one more deadline to act before the shutdown is in full force. Here’s a summary of what will shut down during the shutdown.
Publicly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Schumer have resisted being moved from their opposite positions. Behind the scenes, a senior House Republican told Bloomberg Saturday that vote-counters were being told a deal could be reached Sunday to reopen the government. To be sure, Goldman Sachs – which has singular insight into the innerworkings of the executive branch thanks to the fact that its alumni are helping run the government – believes there’s a 60% chance the shutdown could “last up to a few weeks.”
Schumer said yesterday he still wants a bipartisan deal that sets budget caps for defense and non-defense spending, protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, and provides disaster relief funds.
Meanwhile, McConnell has promised to keep fighting.
“We’ll be right back at this tomorrow and as long as it takes” to pass a spending bill, McConnell said Saturday evening.
To be sure, some Democrats – particularly those from states where Trump defeated Clinton by a sizable margin – are sounding more flexible about the terms of reopening the government, seeking more of a solid path toward an immigration bill and other goals than immediate action.
Circling back to Trump’s push for the so-called “nuclear option”, Congressional Republicans haven’t yet commented on whether they’re considering it, although we expect the “official” GOP position on the matter will be disclosed later in the day.