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    Trump says shutdown may go on for "years" and threatens to use emergency powers to build wall; Democrats pass bill to open government but adamantly say no to wall.



    U.S. government partially shuts down over border wall funding

    The United States (U.S.) government partially shut down on the morning of Dec. 22, 2018, following an impasse regarding how President Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall would be funded. As a consequence of the partial shutdown, approximately 420,000 federal employees were required to continue working without pay; this subset of employees included Coast Guard employees, U.S. Marshals, and Border Patrol officers.

    On Dec. 11, 2018, President Trump held a televised meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in which he demanded $5 billion for the wall and made clear that he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security" if they did not accede to his demand. Politico reported days later that President Trump's commitment here was wavering as he indicated he was willing to sign a spending bill without the border funding. 

    On Dec. 19, 2018, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to keep the government funded up through Feb. 8, 2019, which did not include funding for the wall. Following criticism from prominent conservative voices, President Trump reversed his flexibility and declared he would not sign a spending bill that did not include his funding for the wall. This pressured the Republicans in the House to pass a spending bill that included $5 billion for the border wall, which passed 217-185. That said, since Republicans needed Democrats in the Senate to pass the spending bill, and Democratic Senators made clear the border wall was a non-starter, this fostered the conditions for an impasse that led to the partial shutdown.

    Despite originally claiming he'd be "proud to shut down the government for border security", President Trump took to Twitter to repeatedly emphasize that the shutdown was the fault of the Democratic Party. Right before the government officially shut down, he tweeted: "The Democrats now own the shutdown!" He also tweeted on Dec. 22, 2018, that he would not be going to Florida for his holiday vacation and would stay in the White House so long as the shutdown was ongoing. On Christmas Eve, President Trump tweeted: "I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security. At some point the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our Country more money than the Border Wall we are all talking about. Crazy!"

    It was unknown how long the shutdown was going to last and lawmakers were away for the holiday. That said, with a House Democratic majority scheduled to take control in January of 2019, House Democrats were exploring ways to open the government, return approximately 800,000 federal workers on furlough to work, and deny President Trump his border wall funding.

    On Jan. 3, 2019, Nancy Pelosi was elected by the House of Representatives to be the House Speaker for a second stint in that post.  She made history as only the first -- and second -- woman in United States history to hold that position, effectively making her second in line, behind Vice President Mike Pence, according to Article 2, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution.  

    As she strode through the Capitol en route to the opening of the new Congress, Pelosi was asked if she would cede to Trump's demands on the funding for his signature campaign promise -- the border wall with Mexico -- she replied, “A wall is an immorality — it’s not who we are as a nation. This is not a wall between Mexico and the United States that the president is creating here; it’s a wall between reality and his constituents, his supporters.”

    Pelosi added that the wall "... is a waste of money and opportunity cost to protect the American people." She instead suggested that border security funding should be allocated for modernizing infrastructure at ports of entry and ameliorating technology to scan incoming vehicles for drugs. She added, "There's so many things that we can be doing ... that also maintain who we are as a country."

    Right after newly-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized the gavel and the 116th Congress was convened, the first order of business was the pass legislation aimed at ending the government shutdown. By that point, the shutdown had been ongoing for two weeks with as many as 800,000 federal workers affected.

    To this end, Democrats in the House were joined by a handful of Republicans in passing a two-part package of legislation that would end the governing crisis.  Democrats flexed their muscle by ignoring the president's demand for $5 billion to construct his wall, and instead opted to fund the Department of Homeland Security at existing levels until Feb. 8, 2019, and as before, offered only $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other aspects of border security, such as cyber-technology and cameras.  In the second part of the package, there was funding made available for underfunded federal agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Justice, until the end of the fiscal year -- that is to say, until Sept. 2019.

    Despite passing through the House of Representatives, and with a strong likelihood of passage in the Senate, given the inclusion of elements that had already passed that chamber, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that it would not be brought up for a vote.  McConnell cast the legislation as  "political theater, not productive lawmaking."  

    But McConnell was under pressure from  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who said, "If Leader McConnell tonight would put the bill that's passing the House on the floor, it would pass."

    It was unclear how long MCOnnell could hold this line as some Republicans within his own caucus, perhaps calculating the potential political damage, were indicating that they were ready to work on a bipartisan basis to re-open the government.  

    For his part, President Trump threatened to veto the legislation. A tumultuous  meeting in the White House Situation Room between Trump and Democratic congressional leaders ended with an impasse. An angered  Trump emreged later and indicated that he was prepared for to stand his ground and allow the government shutdown to continue for "years."  Trump additionally suggested that he could declare emergency powers and command the construction of the wall on that basis, without approval from Congress.  Trump said: "Yes, I have ... I may do it ... we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly." 

    Such a move would not actually be constitutional. The United States Constitution gives  Congress the "power of the purse strings" and as such, the legislative branch of government controls funding the federal government.  Attempting to bypass that constitutionally-enshrined order would inevitably face legal challenges and quite likely send the country into a constitutional crisis.  

    House Democrats, however, were undeterred. In an interview with NBC News that aired on Jan. 3, 2019, when Pelosi had been asked about what Democrats would do to work with Trump to meet his demands.  She declared,  "No, no. Nothing for the wall."  As Jthe first week of anuary 2019 came to a close, that Democratic standpoint position had not changed. 

    Note: It should be noted that during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump vowed that Mexico would pay for the border wall.


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