US government in shutdown after Senate fails to pass new budget

Chris Graham
Donald Trump was hosting the Democratic Senate leader on Friday afternoon in an 11th hour push to reach a deal to avert a government shutdown - Bloomberg

The US government has started to shut down after Congress failed to overcome a bitter standoff over spending and immigration, marking a choatic end to Donald Trump's first year as president. 

Last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter of a century.

Social Security and most other safety net programmes are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, two million federal employees will be furloughed – given leave of absence.

Most staff in the departments of housing, environment, education and commerce will stay at home. Half of workers in the treasury, health, defence and transportation departments will also not be going to work next week.

National parks and monuments face closure while visa and passport processing could be delayed.

Essential services that protect "life or human property" will continue, including national security, postal services, air traffic control, inpatient medical services, emergency outpatient medicine, disaster assistance, prisons, taxation and electricity generation.

Click here for a detailed account of what happens now.

Congress scheduled an unusual Saturday session to begin considering a three-week version of the short-term spending measure - and to broadcast that they were at work as the shutdown commenced. It seemed likely each side would try forcing votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies.

White House blames Democrats

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late-night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 48 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster. 

The president watched the results from the White House residence, dialing up allies and affirming his belief that Democrats would take the blame for the shutdown, a source familiar with his conversations said. 

Sen. Charles Schumer walks to the chamber after a closed meeting with fellow democrats on Capitol Hill Credit: AP

The White House lashed out at Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, blaming him for the shutdown "Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown," Trump's spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declared.

"Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country's ability to serve all Americans.

"We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," she said.

Schumer hits back

Mr Schumer fought back, however, blaming the president for leading him to believe a deal was possible on a measure to prevent the expulsion of undocumented migrants who arrived in the country as children.

"Every American knows the Republican Party controls White House, the Senate, the House - it is their job to keep the government open. It is their job to work with us to move forward," Mr Schumer told the Senate.

"They control every ounce of the process and it is their responsibility to govern and here they have failed," he declared.

FAQ | What is a federal government shutdown?

The measure brought to Congress would have extended federal funding until Feb 16 and restored a health insurance programme for poor children for six years - a long-time Democratic objective.

But it would have cut the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals programme, known as Daca, that affects Dreamers. who have been protected from deportation. White House officials insisted there was no urgency to fix Daca, which expires on March 5.

Mr Trump, who had made strict measures on immigration a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, last week rejected a bipartisan proposal, saying he wanted to include any deal for Dreamers in a bigger legislative package that also boosts funding for a border wall and tighter security at the border with Mexico.

The lawmakers and Mr Trump's White House had mounted last-ditch negotiations to stave off what had come to appear as the inevitable, with the parties in stare-down mode over federal spending and proposals to protect the 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Trump had brought Mr Schumer to the White House in hopes of cutting a deal on a short-term spending agreement.

Talks collapse over immigration

The two New Yorkers, who pride themselves on their negotiating abilities, started talking over cheeseburgers about a larger agreement that would have included greater military spending and money for a southern border wall.

But the talks fell apart almost as abruptly as they started. In a phone call hours later, the president raised new concerns about the deal he and Schumer had discussed, according to a person familiar with the conversation. In a subsequent phone call with Schumer, chief of staff John Kelly said the deal discussed was too liberal. The White House did not immediately comment on that account.

As word of the Schumer meeting spread, the White House hastened to reassure Republican congressional leaders that Trump would not make any major policy concessions, a source said.

US Federal Government Shutdowns

On Capitol Hill, McConnell said Americans at home would be watching to see "which senators make the patriotic decision" and which "vote to shove aside veterans, military families and vulnerable children to hold the entire country hostage... until we pass an immigration bill".

"We can't keep kicking the can down the road," said Schumer, insisting on more urgency in talks on immigration. "In another month, we'll be right back here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better position to solve them."

Mr Schumer called on the president and leaders of both parties to resume negotiations on Saturday.

Mr McConnell said he would seek a new funding bill through to February 8 but a Senate Democratic source said that was too far out. Democrats had argued for an extension of four or five days to force both sides into serious negotiations on the immigration issue.

Election issue

With mid-term congressional elections looming later this year, Republicans risk being blamed by voters when the government stops functioning over lack of funds.

A new Washington Post/ABC poll found that 48 per cent of Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for a potential shutdown, and only 28 per cent hold Democrats responsible.

Trump had been set to leave on Friday to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate marking the anniversary of his inauguration, but delayed his travel.

The shutdown is the first since 2013, when tea party Republicans - in a strategy not unlike the one Mr Schumer is employing now - sought to use a must-pass funding bill to try to force then-President Barack Obama to delay implementation of his marquee health care law.

At the time, Mr Trump told Fox & Friends that the ultimate blame for a shutdown lies at the top. "I really think the pressure is on the president," he said.

 

2:10PM

Donald Trump blames Democrats

 

7:09AM

The Twitter war rages

The time for talking has ended. The time for tweeting has begun. Both sides are currently slugging it out on social media. 

The Republicans say:

 The Democrats say:

6:59AM

The cheeseburger summit

An NBC News reporter says Schumer and Trump held talks while munching on cheeseburgers. 

FAQ | What is a federal government shutdown?

6:55AM

What is shut down?

FAQ | What is a federal government shutdown?

6:25AM

McConnell to propose shorter-term funding plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will seek to halt the shutdown with a proposal to fund the government through February 8.

McConnell says February 8 is "a very reasonable time" and pushes the matter beyond President Donald Trump's Jan. 30 State of the Union address.

It's unclear how quickly lawmakers might vote on McConnell's proposal. It's also uncertain if shrinking the timeframe of a short-term agreement from four weeks to three weeks will draw enough votes to reopen the government.

6:02AM

Trump staying in Washington 'until this is finished'

Mr Trump had already scrapped plans to depart on Friday for his Mar-a-Lago club, where he'd been set to attend a high-dollar fundraiser on Saturday night to commemorate his first year in office.

While White House aides did not respond to questions about the president's weekend plans, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters he didn't expect Trump to go to Florida on Saturday.

"I think the president's been very clear: He's not leaving until this is finished," he said.

The reverberations of the shutdown will be felt across Washington, all over the nation - and within the White House residence.

According to federal stipulations, just 21 of the 96 members of the White House residential staff would report to duty on any day of a shutdown.

5:56AM

No talks on immigration until shutdown over

As well as blaming the Democrats, Trump's administration said it would not discuss immigration until the government is up and running again.

"When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders, we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform."

5:40AM

Battle of the hashtags

The White House is calling it the #SchumerShutdown. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, is calling it the #TrumpShutdown.

“Tonight, on the eve of the first anniversary of his inauguration, President Trump earned an ‘F’ for failure in leadership," Ms Pelosi said.

“I hope that we can now conduct bipartisan negotiations where we find our common ground to honor our responsibility to meet the needs of the American people.”

5:34AM

Schumer responds

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is giving his version of the talks - putting much of the blame on the president.

He says he had offered to "put the border wall on the table" during discussions with Mr Trump, but that was not enough for him to make a deal. 

He says an outline of a deal was in hand on immigration and spending caps but Trump "did not press his party in Congress to accept it".

5:27AM

Senator McConnell reacts

The Senate Majority Leader says the Democrats derailed talks with  their desire to force the passage of legislation to protect some 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

 

5:23AM

What Trump said in the past

Earlier, the Democrats were keen to show what Mr Trump said when the government shutdown in 2013. 

5:21AM

The 'behavior of obstructionist losers'

The White House is continuing its attack - and you suspect Donald Trump may be dictating. 

5:15AM

White House kicks off blame game

As soon as the shutdown began, the White House tweeted it response - laying the blame squarely at the Democrats.