Washington, United States – A budget deal to end the partial shutdown — which forced several key US agencies to cease operations at 12:01 am (0501 GMT) Saturday — appears a distant prospect as Congress adjourned for the weekend ahead of Christmas.
“It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” White House budget director Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” of the impasse over funding for President Donald Trump’s wall on the US-Mexico border.
But while trying to pin the blame for the shutdown on Democrats, Mulvaney acknowledged that Trump’s adamance on the wall played a role.
“This is what Washington looks like when you have a president who refuses to sort of go along to get along,” Mulvaney said.
It is the third partial government shutdown of the year, even though Trump’s own Republican Party still controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats will take control of the House on January 3.
– ‘A long stay’ –
Trump, who canceled his holiday vacation to Florida due to the budget wrangling, has dug in on his demand for $5 billion to build the border wall, a signature campaign promise and part of his effort to reduce illegal immigration.
“The only way to stop drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into our Country is with a Wall or Barrier,” he tweeted Sunday. “Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun, but it is only a good old fashioned Wall that works!”
He had tweeted Saturday that he was in the White House “working hard” to find a solution but that “it could be a long stay.”
But Democrats remain staunchly opposed, and in the absence of a deal, federal funds for dozens of agencies lapsed.
Nearly 400,000 workers have been sent home while an additional 420,000 whose jobs were deemed essential — including Border Patrol officers and airport security workers — are remaining on the job without pay.
There were few signs on Sunday of any forward movement and, with most lawmakers home for the holidays, some indications that a solution was as far away as ever.
“The Democrats offered us $1.6 billion a couple weeks ago,” Mulvaney said on ABC. “Then they offered the president $1.3 billion this week.”
“That’s a negotiation that seems like it’s going in the wrong direction,” said the current budget director set to become Trump’s acting chief of staff next week.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, blamed the shutdown on a “remarkable two-week temper tantrum” by the president, who he said could reopen the government if he would “abandon the wall.”
– ‘It’s juvenile’ –
Even some Republicans expressed consternation over what they dubbed an avoidable crisis.
“The Democrats easily would support more border funding, border security, they’ve said that” if a broader deal could be reached, Republican Senator Bob Corker said on CNN.
“This is something that is unnecessary. It’s a spectacle and, candidly, it’s juvenile,” said Corker, speaking in his final days before stepping down from Congress.
“This is a made-up fight so that the president can look like he’s fighting.”
He said a deal is easily within reach if the two sides were prepared to compromise, particularly on Democrats’ demand to protect the status of the “Dreamers” — Latinos who, as children, arrived illegally in the United States with their parents.
Mulvaney said Trump was “willing to discuss a larger immigration solution,” but he seemed cool to the possibility of offering citizenship to the “Dreamers,” saying it was not a popular idea among many Republicans.
– Shuttered museums, no paychecks –
The year-end holidays have made the shutdown’s visible effects slow to appear but they will gradually spread.
Visitors to the capital’s park-like National Mall, home to attractions including war memorials and the towering Washington Monument, were among the first to feel it.
Several criticized the shutdown, which added to an air of chaos in a capital still reeling from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation last week over Trump policies.
Jeffrey Grignon, a Wisconsin healthcare worker, said politicians of both parties “need to stop acting like children.”
But another visitor, Howard Vander Griend of Tennessee, predicted Trump will come out a winner: “I think he will get what he wants and I think that’s a good thing.”
Tourists could still visit open-air sites on the Mall but found public restrooms locked. The White House Visitor Center and the National Archives — home to the US Constitution and other historic documents — were also closed.
Some national parks have shuttered completely, but New York’s governor provided funding to allow the Statue of Liberty monument to remain open.
Most critical US security functions remain operational.
About three-quarters of the government, including the military and the Department of Health and Human Services, is fully funded until the end of September 2019, leaving 25 percent unfunded.