Wednesday, the 116th Congress convened for the first time, and still the government shutdown – which has left 800,000 government workers without pay – continues. Minutes into the day, the newly elected bodies dashed hopes that a new Congress would be quicker in compromise and resolution to end the government shutdown.
Reappointed as Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi promised that the majority Democrats would quickly pass a funding measure through the House to restore government funding. That bill would include $1.3 billion for border security – although only existing structures could be improved, meaning a border wall would be exempt.
However, the measure was always a symbolic one, as the bill lacked money for a proposed border wall and thus offered no real chance of getting through the Senate and the White House.
While Democrats gained control of the House, Republicans widened their margin in the Senate – now holding a 53-person majority. All of this signifies as increasingly obstinate political stalemate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to not consider any funding bill that President Trump would not sign.
The Republican Party had controlled the House, Senate and Presidency – but were unable to pass funding measures because of alienating key voters. The government shut down as a result on Dec. 22.
Early in negotiations, both Democrats and Republicans seemed willing to compromise. Democrats acquiesced to spending $1.6 billion on border security – although crucially, not the wall – but that number later fell to $1.3 billion as the battle went along.
When Vice President Mike Pence reportedly came back with an offer for $2.5 billion that would go toward the wall, Democrats declined. Democrats declined similar measures from Republicans earlier in negotiations.
Trump recently refuted the idea that he’d accept anything less than $5.6 billion.
Compromise was effectively stung in the tail when Trump refused to consider a last-minute continuing resolution with bipartisan support before the shutdown.
With so much hearsay and speculation about the behind-the-scene negotiations, here’s what the important decision-makers have said about the shutdown.
“The $5 billion approved by the House is such a small amount compared to the level of the problem.”
“No, not $2.5 (billion), no. We’re asking for $5.6 (billion) and somebody said $2.5 (billion). No, look, this is national security we’re talking about … What I’m talking about is the $5.6 billion that the House approved.”
“Nothing for the wall.”
“There is no amount of persuasion he can do to say to us, ‘We want you to do something that is not effective, that costs billions of dollars.'”
“Let me say it again: The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature.”
“The bottom line is very simple. At our last meeting, the president said, ‘I am going to shut the government down.’ They are now feeling the heat. It is not helping the president. It is not helping the Republicans to be the owners of this shutdown.”