Government shutdown: Constructive talks are happening, McConnell says

Posted at 2:24 AM, Dec 22, 2018

Parts of the federal government shut down at midnight after Congress and the White House failed to reach a deal Friday night to avert the shuttering of several departments.

Both the US House of Representatives and the Senate adjourned after Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said there would not be a vote Friday night in the Senate.

Funding for roughly a quarter of the federal government then expired at midnight, including appropriations for the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and other parts of the government. This is the first time in 40 years that the government has been closed three times in a year.

However, before they adjourned for the night, the Senate passed a bill to ensure federal employees who are furloughed get back pay.

It was passed by unanimous consent, but still will need to pass the House.

The measure was brought up by Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, who represent Maryland, where many DC area federal employees live.

On Friday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence, budget director Mick Mulvaney and President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, all arrived on Capitol Hill, where they remained into the evening. Shortly thereafter, Republican Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said on the Senate floor that an "understanding has been reached" that the Senate will not take any further votes related to the funding issue "until a global agreement has been reached between the President" and congressional leaders. The procedural maneuver helps streamline the legislative process once a deal is reached, but no such deal had appeared publicly by the time Congress left for the night.

The legislation that seemed all but certain to succeed earlier in the week was derailed on Thursday when Trump said he would not sign the bill that had passed in the Senate.

The House on Thursday passed legislation that included Trump's request for $5 billion for a border wall, but it was clear on Friday that that demand did not have the votes needed to pass in the Senate, and was therefore not brought up for a vote -- creating more uncertainty on a path forward.

Trump earlier in the day predicted the government would shut down -- and looked to place the blame on Democrats.

"The chances are probably very good" that there is a shutdown, Trump told reporters Friday afternoon while at a White House signing ceremony for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation.

"It's really the Democrat shutdown, because we've done our thing," Trump continued. "Now it's up to the Democrats as to whether we have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don't, but we're totally prepared for a very long shutdown."

Friday night, as he appeared to be leaving for the evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "constructive talks are underway."

When McConnell was asked if he would be coming back to participate in the talks, he said, "as I've said repeatedly, we need Democratic votes and presidential signature."