POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Deadline looms to avoid federal government shutdown

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

The partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats in Congress has the federal government still lurching toward a partial government shut down at midnight Friday. President Donald Trump wants $5 billion to fund a border wall, but Democrats say they’ve already compromised with Republicans and won’t budge beyond the $1.6 billion they’ve already approved for border security.

“At the end of the day, President Trump will be responsible, as he said at the White House, he would be happy to take the responsibility for a shutdown. I don’t think he understands what that means to average Americans, what it means to our economy,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Sen. Mitch McConnell offered a new compromise Tuesday.

“I invited the Democratic leader and Sen. Leahy over to my office this morning,” he said. “I’ve heard back from Sen. Schumer that the offer was not acceptable, and so now I’m in consultation with the White House about the way forward.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News Tuesday that the White House does not want a shutdown and that “there are other ways that we can get to the $5 billion.”

She referenced an approved Senate bill that provides $26 billion to the Department of Homeland Security, and said it could be “coupled with other funding resources.” It’s not clear what those other sources might be.

“Part of the ongoing appropriations for different agencies, it’s just money that has been allocated or advocated for in each of the departments. So the $26 billion could be a Homeland Security appropriation and some of that could be used for border security,” said Matt Hale, associate professor in the department of political science at Seton Hall University.

The budget vote comes during the lame duck session. Many officials who lost the November election aren’t even voting, and Congress is preparing for a power shift as Democrats take control of the House in January.

“I don’t think there’s any incentive for Democrats to cut deals with Donald Trump at this point. They have a lot more Democrats at the table, they’re going to take over the House and they’re going to get a better deal when the new Congress sits,” said Hale.

One way to avoid the shutdown is a continuing resolution, but that’ll likely rule out the president’s hopes for border wall funding under the new Congress.

“I don’t know that we are going to see specific funding for a wall,” Hale said. “There’s certainly a lot of things they might do in terms of increasing border security. There might be technology advancements, there might be additional personnel, and maybe that’s a way out of it, but I just don’t see how a wall actually gets built.”

None of New Jersey’s Republican representatives were available for comment. If a shutdown happens, all essential services will be closed — that includes national parks, Veterans Affairs offices and Social Security services; however, Social Security checks will still be mailed. Ultimately, a shutdown would leave 800,000 federal workers without pay just before the holidays.