TrumpWatch, Day 366: No Sign of End to Government Shutdown

Photo: Manuel Balice Ceneta (AP)

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Developments on Day 366 of the Trump Administration:

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GOP Hardliners Refuse Any Talks About Dreamers

Legislators gathered on Saturday to discuss the shutdown of the US Federal Government, but there was no sign of progress towards a deal on the first day of the closure.

Supplementary funding for the Government, necessary because the Trump Administration has not presented a budget after more than a year in office, expired at midnight on Friday. Opposition by Trump and hardline Republicans to any protections for almost 800,000 “Dreamer” immigrants, at risk of deportation, prevented any resolution as five Republican Senators and 45 Democrats voted against any funding extension.

Republican leaders said on Saturday that there will be no discussion of the Dreamers, covered since 2012 by Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, until funding is agreed. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized, “The President will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government.”

“Everyone’s dug in. No movement at all from either side,” said a Democratic aide.

A bipartisan group of about 20 senators, the Common Sense Coalition, met Saturday afternoon in the office of GOP Senator Susan Collins to seek a compromise. Members said they were working on various proposals for discussion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer; however,the two men did not speak yesterday.

Donald Trump was forced to miss a Saturday party and fundraiser at his Florida resort, celebrating his first anniversary in office. He said in a video recording for the event: “There shouldn’t be a shutdown, but there is.It’s caused by the Democrats. But we’re gonna end up winning another victory.”

Trump spent much of the day tweeting and retweeting:

Minority Leader Schumer was reportedly close to a deal with Trump on Friday afternoon, extending funding by three or four days while a proposal over the Dreamers was discussed. Schumer said he and colleagues were ready to accept Trump’s Wall on the Mexican border. However, Republican hardliners objected that too many concessions were being made to the Democrats over immigration, and insisted on a three-week extension. Majority Leader McConnell urged White House Chief of Staff John Kelly not to give in, and White House aides assured the GOP hardliners that Trump “wouldn’t give away the store”.

Schumer said on Saturday, “Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O, it is next to impossible. The President needs to pull up a chair to end this shutdown.”

McConnell insisted as he convened the chamber, “Well, here we are. Here we are. Day 1 of the Senate Democrats’ government shutdown. We did everything we could to stop them.”

But GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, the co-sponsor of immigration legislation covering the Dreamers and other issues — rejected by Trump and hardliners as the President spoke of “shithole countries” — said, “There is no defense to what we’re doing. I think we look petty. We look that we care more about the party flag than the American flag.”

McConnell said the Senate will vote on a three-week stopgap spending measure at 1 a.m. Monday. Senate and House sessions resume on Sunday afternoon.

Reportedly rebuffed by his own staff, Trump did little on Saturday as he tweeted and watched TV. The New York Times summarized from sources:

The President was left alternately defiant and angry, self-pitying and frustrated. He argued to aides that he did not deserve the blame he was taking, but without a credible deal on the table, there was little for him to do. Irritated to have missed his big event in Florida, Trump spent much of his day watching old TV clips of him berating President Barack Obama for a lack of leadership during the 2013 government shutdown, a White House aide said, seeming content to sit back and watch the show.

Meanwhile the Trump campaign stepped up the hostile language with an ad proclaiming, “DEMOCRATS ‘COMPLICIT’ IN ALL MURDERS BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS”.

Trump’s son Eric celebrated the shutdown in an interview on Fox TV:

Honestly, I think it’s a good thing for us, because people see through it. I mean, people have seen a year that’s incredible. It’s been filled with nothing but the best for our country, “America First” policies, and they’re happy with where we are as a nation….It has the Democrats worried.

And Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, was also pleased: “I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts the government down is me, which is kind of cool.”

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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