Shutdown now longest in history as Congress skips town

Source: Politico | January 11, 2019 | Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett

The president and Democrats are unable to break the standoff that’s stretched into its 22nd day.

The partial government shutdown on Saturday became the longest in U.S. history, an ominous milestone in an impasse between President Donald Trump and Congress that’s left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without a paycheck and no end in sight to the crisis.

Congress left town Friday with seemingly no way out of an immigration battle that has fiercely divided Trump and Democrats since his inauguration. Scores of lawmakers complained about the staggering dysfunction that has defined the beginning of the 116th Congress and kept a quarter of the government closed for 22 days and counting.

For weeks, the president and lawmakers have failed to find a way to reopen the government, with Democrats unwilling to give Trump more money for a border wall. And with talks stalled, there is no solution on the horizon even as Trump weighs whether to declare a national emergency to build his wall.

Trump said on Friday he would refrain from taking unilateral action on border security — just one day after he said he would “probably” do so within days — amid mounting pushback from his own GOP allies on Capitol Hill.

“We want Congress to do its job,” Trump told reporters. “What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency.”

On Saturday, the president tweeted: “Democrats should come back to Washington and work to end the Shutdown, while at the same time ending the horrible humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border. I am in the White House waiting for you!”

The White House is rethinking its strategy as the federal government entered its longest-ever stretch without funding. The sense of urgency for a deal is mounting, as 800,000 federal workers missed their first paycheck on Friday.

Pressure was also coming from congressional Republicans, who are increasingly skeptical of Trump’s plans for an executive order. Many have balked at the strategy as potential overreach — not unlike the GOP’s rhetoric against former President Obama’s unilateral immigration moves. They have also objected to the funding strategy Trump would use to pay for the wall after declaring an emergency.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Friday that he would oppose reusing disaster funds for the wall, referencing the Trump administration’s possible plan to use disaster relief money. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, also raised concerns about using such money.

By Friday afternoon, Trump said that he is “not going to do it so fast.”

The White House’s pivot away from an emergency order muddies the path forward for reopening the government, with both Democrats and Trump unbending in their stance on the border wall.

Some lawmakers in both parties believed that Trump’s legal move could be an escape hatch from the intractable funding fight, with Trump agreeing to reopen the government as he seeks money elsewhere.

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