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After weeks of failed negotiations over funding for a border wall, on Saturday morning part of the federal government shutdown as members of Congress and President Donald J. Trump are still at an impasse on a deal to fund the government.
Trump, who made it a key campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.- Mexican border to stem the tide of immigrants and drugs, threatened to shut down the government if Congress did not include $5 billion in funding for the wall. While Trump and some Congressional Republicans were adamant about funding for a border wall, Democratic members of Congress vowed to not support any resolution that included funding for the wall.
“We’re going to have a shutdown, there’s nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes,” Trump said in a statement.
On Friday night, the House passed a resolution to fund the government to Feb. 8, but since the bill includes funding for Trump’s border wall, Senate Democrats said they will note support it.
Now the federal government goes into a partial shutdown, with about 800,000 federal employees – 26,000 of which are federal jobs in Maryland – ,being affected by it. Some federal agencies will continue normally, such as the Social Security Administration, the military and the U.S. Postal Service.
However, 380,000 federal employees are furloughed, including many workers at the Department of Commerce, NASA, the National Park Service, Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. In addition, 420,000 federal workers will be required to work without pay during the shutdown, including 41,000 employees from the FBI, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives and 88 percent of the employees at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The National Institutes of Health will still operate mostly as normal, as Congress has already approved its funding, while the Food and Drug Administration will cease operations except those that affect public health and safety, according to its website.
“President Trump and Congressional Republicans have thrown the federal government into total disarray and put us on the brink of a shutdown to score political points. This is not leadership – it’s shameful,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in a statement. “As we work to resolves this crisis, we must ensure that federal employees – who have nothing to do with this – are held harmless.”
The shutdown continues through the Christmas Holiday, with Thursday being the first opportunity for legislators to come to a deal as the Senate comes back into session.
Democratic House and Senate leadership spent weeks negotiating with the president about a deal that would fund the government. While Trump remained adamant that any resolution to fund the government would need $5 billion in funding for a border wall, Democratic leaders were optimistic that they could still get a deal done.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8), said while they would not support any deal with funding for a border wall, they were optimistic that a bipartisan compromise would be reached before the Dec. 20 deadline.
“It is unacceptable to make federal workers and their families suffer on behalf of the Administration’s policy delusions,” Raskin said in a statement. “President Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his $35-billion fantasy wall but that promise, like so many others, has just vanished.”
Late last week, it appeared as if Trump might budge on his stance for wall funding, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration can find others to fund construction of the $5-billion border wall.
But on Friday, optimism turned as House Republican, backed by Trump, passed a resolution that would fund the government through Feb. 8 a resolution that includes funding for a border wall, meaning Senate Democrats, who are needed for the resolution to pass, won’t vote for it.
Realizing the threat of the shutdown to his state, Gov. Larry Hogan (R), along with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D),wrote a letter addressed to Trump and Congressional leaders pleading with them to find compromise to avert a government shutdown.
“Governors compromise every day. We must work with partners in our legislatures and with stakeholders throughout our states,” the letter said. “It is not a choice; it is a necessity to ensure the citizens we serve in our states – the same ones you represent at the national level – have access to the basic functions that allow them to lead good lives.”
This is the third time this year that the federal government has shut down, thanks to Congress’s inability to pass a resolution to fund the government. In January, the president and Democratic members of Congress failed to reach a deal on visas for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors, leading to a government shutdown for three days. In February, the government shutdown again, but just for a few hours — as Congress passed a funding resolution in the early-morning hours.