The U.S. government partially shutdown early Saturday after lawmakers failed to reach a spending deal that centered on whether to fund construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The impasse put the government on track to close about a quarter of its offices, an outcome likely to have little immediate effect because it falls on an extended holiday weekend. It is the third shutdown this year.
Frustrated by President Trump’s vacillations during the week, lawmakers reached a procedural agreement Friday that they wouldn’t take another vote until a deal had been struck between the White House, GOP and Democratic congressional leaders. The House adjourned around 7 p.m. Friday and the Senate followed an hour later. Both chambers plan to reopen Saturday at noon, and negotiations between White House officials and congressional leaders were expected to continue during the day.
The discussions focused on the package of seven spending bills that would fund the government through September, including a bipartisan Senate measure funding the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border wall.
In the negotiations, some lawmakers were advocating for $1.3 billion in border security, others for $1.6 billion, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said. Mr. Trump has said he won’t sign any measure that doesn’t provide $5 billion for the wall and lawmakers are uncertain he would be willing to commit to any compromise.
Shortly before the government funding expired, Mr. Trump released a video in which he said, “We’re going to have a shutdown” and again sought to blame Democrats. He said a border wall—or a “slat fence”—is necessary for the nation’s security, and asked Democrats to negotiate. “The shutdown hopefully will not last long.”
It wasn’t yet clear if leaders would be able to reach an agreement funding the government through September or fall back on another stopgap measure or remain stuck in a shutdown. They also were discussing what kind of restrictions would be in place around the $1.6 billion in border security.
Mr. Durbin said Friday that lawmakers were planning to go home, with the assumption that when a deal is reached between leaders of both chambers and Mr. Trump, it should be able to pass by unanimous consent without lawmakers present to vote. Leaders of both chambers told lawmakers they would be given 24 hours’ notice before a roll-call vote.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said he wouldn’t support a deal limited to $1.6 billion in border security but suggested it could be “part of a larger conversation.”
“Most conservatives are not supportive of going to a $1.6 [billion] restrictive border wall funding measure,” he said, referring to the Senate’s bipartisan bill. But if Mr. Trump were on board with a deal, that would give House GOP leaders more political room to bring a bipartisan bill to the House floor, even if some conservatives opposed it.
The expiration of seven spending bills loomed over a hectic Friday that saw senators rush back into town to consider a measure that passed the House the night before. Earlier Friday, Mr. Trump had urged Republican senators to get behind the House bill, which included $5.7 billion for the wall.
A procedural vote on the House bill passed after more than five hours, with an agreement to continue negotiations and not hold further votes until the White House and both chambers had reached a deal. Any spending measure would need 60 votes in the Senate, giving Democrats leverage because of the GOP’s slim 51-49 majority.
Friday’s drama capped a weekslong back-and-forth as Mr. Trump sought to fulfill a core campaign pledge to build a border wall just as the shutdown possibility threatened to keep lawmakers from leaving for their year-end recess.
The House had been expected to pass the Senate stopgap bill, but it instead passed a spending measure on Thursday night that included the $5.7 billion for wall funding, largely on party lines, when conservative House lawmakers pushed back and Mr. Trump was lambasted by conservative commentators.
Late-afternoon Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) met with Vice President Mike Pence, White House budget director and incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner at the administration’s request, a Schumer aide said.
Mr. Schumer told the men that Democrats wouldn’t support any proposal with funding for a border wall, but said the two proposals that contained border-security money that Democratic leaders offered the president last week are still possible, as is the stopgap bill already passed by the Senate.
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Mr. Trump, for his part, on Friday tried to shift blame to Democrats for a potential shutdown, even as he said last week that he would shoulder responsibility.