Democrats and Republicans played the blame game for a government shutdown Saturday — with both sides unable to come to an agreement on Democratic demands for language to protect illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
The shutdown kicked in at midnight Friday after Senate Democrats blocked a month-long short-term resolution to keep the government open.
While the bill would have funded the government, as well as given a six-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Democrats rejected it as it did not include a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
That Obama-era program was repealed by Trump in September, with a March deadline for Congress to come up with a fix. While separate bipartisan immigration talks had been underway, Democrats demanded a DACA fix as part of the continuing resolution (CR), requiring Republicans to cobble together 60 votes to overcome the filibuster.
The subsequent 50-49 vote fell largely along party lines, with five Republicans voting no, and five Democrats voting yes.
On Saturday, although both the House and the Senate were in session, both sides seemed focused on pushing their respective narratives about who was to blame for the crisis.
‘Happy anniversary Mr President. You wanted a shutdown. The shutdown is all yours.’
Democrats pointed the finger at Republicans, arguing that they could not blame Democrats for the shutdown when Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took aim at Trump, saying he had earned an F for “failure in leadership.” She said Republicans are “so incompetent and negligent that they couldn’t get it together to keep the government open.”
“Happy anniversary Mr President,” Pelosi said. “You wanted a shutdown. The shutdown is all yours.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said on the Senate floor that in a White House meeting on Friday, he offered Trump funding for a border wall in exchange for a DACA fix. He claimed that Trump seemed open to a deal, and they came close to an agreement but hours later he made further demands that Schumer said were untenable.
“Republican leadership can’t get its tumultuous president on board with anything,” Schumer said. “The breakdown of compromise is poisoning this Congress and it all comes down to President Trump.”
Republicans, meanwhile, blasted Democrats for what they saw as holding the government “hostage” over illegal immigration. President Trump accused the Democrats of “holding our Military hostage” over their desire for “unchecked illegal immigration.”
The White House pushed back on Schumer’s account of the White House meeting. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a briefing that Schumer had in fact offered only $1.8 billion in funding for the wall, far short of the approximately $20 billion Trump wanted. Mulvaney said Schumer still told Trump that he was giving him everything he wanted.
“Does it even become profitable to work with someone like that?” Mulvaney asked reporters.
A sign of the bitterness of the blame game came from the White House comments line, where a voicemail blamed Democrats for users being unable to use the line.
“Thank you for calling the White House, unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are withholding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, our government is shut down,” the voicemail said.
Both sides seemed unable to find common ground on the central issue of disagreement, DACA. Congressional lawmakers and the White House said they were not budging on DACA until the government was funded.
“The President will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
On the Democratic side, in addition to Schumer’s remarks about wall funding, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said that while he would not vote for a CR that did not include a DACA fix, he would vote for one that included a DACA fix and a border wall.
“At this point, I’m not supporting any CR that doesn’t include a fix. Now what I am telling you is, if that fix includes a wall, I’m ready,” he said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement that he believed that a compromise was close and suggested a compromise that would fund the government through Feb. 8, with a commitment for the Senate to move to an immigration debate.
“After my discussions with numerous senators on both sides of the last night it is clear to me a commitment to move to immigration after February 8th is the key to ending the government shutdown and finding resolution on all the outstanding issues,” Graham said.
Fox News’ Joseph Weber, Ed Henry, Chad Pergram, Jenny Buchholz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.