(Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

Christmas Shutdown: Deadline Passes Without Senate Agreement on Border Funding

The federal government partially shut down overnight as the Senate adjourned without an agreement on what to do about a continuing resolution from the House that sticks $5.7 billion in border wall funding back into the Senate version of the stopgap appropriations measure.

The Senate allocated $1.3 billion for border security funding that does not include construction of a concrete wall.

The border-wall prototypes viewed by President Trump in Southern California earlier this year were composed of concrete or a mix of concrete and fenced sections to allow Border Patrol agents better visibility. While congressional approval for a wall has been pending, repairs and renovations along critical border sections have gone forward using steel bollard fencing, which Trump approvingly refers to now as “steel slats.”

Trump tweeted an illustration Friday night of a steel fence with sharp points at the top. “A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” he wrote.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Friday that the $5 billion demand is “clearly a political gambit by President Trump to appease his never-happy base.”

“You’re not getting the wall today, next week, or on Jan. 3 when Democrats take control of the House,” Schumer said. “Just two days ago, the Senate came together to support a proposal by Leader McConnell – unanimously, every Democrat, every Republican – to extend government funding through February, without partisan demands. What it would accomplish would be that the government would not shut down, and the fights we are having would be postponed to a later day and millions of Americans would not be hurt this Christmas week. So, let me repeat that: the Senate – every Democrats, every Republican — has already unanimously supported a clean extension of government funding.”

On Friday, Trump pushed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use the nuclear option to eliminate the 60-vote cloture threshold for passage. But McConnell didn’t budge.

“It’s been clear that from the beginning that two things are necessary: The support from enough Senate Democrats to pass the proposal at 60, and a presidential signature,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “As a result, the Senate has voted to proceed to the legislation before us in order to preserve maximum flexibility for productive conversations to continue between the White House and our Democratic colleagues.”

Workers whose departments’ appropriations bills have already been approved and signed will stay on the job, including Defense, Education, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Labor, and Heath and Human Services.

However, some 380,000 federal employees are now subject to furloughs and 420,000 in areas deemed essential will work without pay. The Department of Homeland Security would be affected, as well as Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Interior, State, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

This is the third shutdown this year. There were two brief shutdowns in the beginning of the year.

“Although we are hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration, employees should report to work for their next regularly scheduled tour of duty to undertake orderly shutdown activities,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a memo to federal agencies. “We will issue another memorandum reopening government functions once the President has signed a bill providing for appropriations.”

The first day of the shutdown is the last day of the pay period, OMB said, which means paychecks issued between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3 will be slightly smaller. The Dec. 23-Jan. 5 pay period would be fully affected if the shutdown lasts that long.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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