Battle to avert US government shutdown moves to the Senate

January 19, 2018
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Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer  says US lawmakers have agreed a spending bill, likely averting a government shutdown/AFP/GETTY/File

, WASHINGTON, United States – A last-ditch battle to avert a looming US government shutdown moved to the Senate on Friday, where Democrats angered by the collapse of immigration talks have vowed to block a stop-gap funding bill.

With the federal government set to run out of money Friday at midnight the eve of the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration the bill cleared the House with a 230-197 vote.

But prospects appeared gloomy in the Senate, where Democrats eager for leverage on budget and immigration deals were intent on shooting it down.

“Government Funding Bill past (sic) last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.

Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that if an agreement is not reached by Friday night, there should be an even shorter-term funding measure that would “give the president a few days to come to the table.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Majority Leader, said the House bill provides for four weeks of funding, enough to allow talks to continue “without throwing the government into disarray for no reason.”

Schumer wants to “hold the entire country hostage,” McConnell said.

“The leader is looking to deflect blame, but it just won’t work,” said Schumer.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Schumer to avoid a government shutdown, saying: “It is risky. It is reckless. And it is wrong.”

Trump who Schumer said “is like a Sphinx on this issue” started on Thursday adding to the chaos gripping Washington, weighing in on the intense Republican manoeuvring aimed at avoiding a politically embarrassing funding debacle.

After a burst of tweets, he second-guessed top Republican lawmakers and slapped down his own chief of staff, who had been leading a White House push on Capitol Hill for a budget compromise.

Arriving at the Pentagon for a visit, Trump told reporters the government “could very well” shut down Friday.

In the event the funding dries up, federal employees for agencies considered non-essential will be ordered to stay home until a budget deal is struck, at which point they are paid retroactively.

The most recent shutdowns in 1995, 1996 and 2013 saw about 800,000 workers furloughed per day.

Key government bodies such as the White House, Congress, State Department and Pentagon would remain operational, but would likely furlough some staff.

The military would still report for duty, but troops including those in combat would potentially not be paid.

The finger-pointing had already begun, with each side blaming the other for a failure to reach a budget compromise after three previous funding extensions.

“A government shutdown will be devastating to our military… something the Dems care very little about!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

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