Lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate went home for a federal holiday weekend with no hints of any deal in a continuing dispute over President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build his border wall, as Democrats in the House vowed more votes on bills to end a funding lapse which started before Christmas, while Senate Republicans continued to refuse to hold any votes before there’s a deal on border funding with the President.
“I feel like this has been a wasted week,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), a key Senate ally of President Trump, who like other lawmakers saw no evidence that a deal was near, four weeks into the shutdown.
“I don’t feel like there’s been much progress at all,” Perdue added.
Democrats certainly endorsed that assessment – while pointing the finger of blame directly at Senate Republicans, criticizing the GOP for not allowing votes on any of the eight funding bills approved by the House to re-open shuttered agencies, send hundreds of thousands of employees back to work, and ensure they will be paid as well.
“We are talking about millions of people's paychecks being held hostage for a border wall that the American public doesn't support,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).
“If we are going to pay them (federal workers) anyway — if the Federal Treasury is going to write that check — wouldn't it be better if they are in their offices answering phones, processing food stamp applications, and serving their fellow Americans than locked out of their offices?” asked Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).
Kaine vowed to force the Senate to be in session on Saturday to drive home Democratic Party arguments about the need to end the shutdown – and to reinforce how Republicans have not allowed any votes yet in 2019 on bills to fund the government.
“I don't understand how this chamber can stand by and watch the devastating effects of this shutdown on our nation,” said Udall on the Senate floor, as he joined Kaine in urging Republicans to allow votes to re-open the National Park Service and other agencies.
Kaine on Thursday forced the Senate Majority Leader to object to a procedural effort to debate and vote on funding for the government; a few hours later, McConnell met for close to an hour at the Capitol with Vice President Mike Pence, and the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
McConnell told reporters afterwards there was no deal to announce.
House Democrats planned several more votes next week on bills to fund the government, as they scrapped a planned break because of the shutdown.
With a federal holiday on Monday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it wasn’t hard to imagine the shutdown continuing through most – if not all – of next week, and that could mean a second missed paycheck for federal workers, most of whom are scheduled to be paid on January 25.
The first missed check was a week ago on January 11.
Some Republicans again suggested the way out was for President Trump to declare a national emergency, and try to move money around in the federal budget to support a border wall.
“I have no idea how long it’s going to go,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said of the shutdown, arguing the national emergency declaration might be the best move for everyone.
“To me, he could use an emergency, and it would be over,” Inhofe said.