ADDS WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT IN GRAFS 4, 5
By Corey Blackman
NEW YORK (AA) - The federal government began a partial shutdown early Saturday after Congress failed to reach an agreement on a short-term spending bill.
A measure to fund the government until the middle of February passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday with little Democratic support but the Republican-led Senate was unable to sway enough Democrats to vote for the bill that would have kept agencies open.
Literal last-minute attempts to extend the deadline for a few more day to try to reach a bigger deal also failed.
A White House spokeswoman wasted no time after the deadline passed by placing blame on the Democrats for the stalemate.
“Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown. Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans,” Sarah Hukabee Sanders said in a statement. “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
Hopes were raised that a deal could be reached after President Donald Trump tweeted he had “an excellent preliminary meeting" with the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, earlier in the day at the White House in an effort to avert a shutdown.
The partisan divide in Washington has reached the point where elected lawmakers are unable to agree on government spending, or much else.
“Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border. Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy.” Trump tweeted less than three hours before the deadline.
Democrats refused to budge on its position that any spending bill must include renewed protections for an estimated 800,000 children brought illegally to the U.S., known as "Dreamers.”
Congress has until March 5 to vote on a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, initiated by former President Barack Obama.
Republicans tried to make the bill more attractive by attaching it to the bill a six-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program that provides low-cost health care for minors whose families must meet certain income requirements.
Approximately 9 million children were enrolled when the program expired at the end of September and states have scrambled to fund it but fear they could run out of money at the end of January.
The drama comes exactly one year after Trump took office while touting his ability to make deals.
There is no way to know how long the shutdown would last but billions of dollars would be lost with some estimates in the neighborhood of $6 billion each week.
A more than two-week shutdown in 2013 cost an estimated $24 billion.
Now as lawmakers work to reach a deal, hundreds of thousands of government employees are furloughed, meaning they will not be able to report to work not will they receive pay. Although there is no guarantee of back pay once they return once the impasse is cleared, Congress usually agrees to legislation to pay workers lost wages and salaries.
Visa and passport offices will be closed, along with national parks and any other service deemed “non-essential.”
The military, air traffic controllers and food inspectors are among federal workers who will remain on the job.
The shutdown is the 18th since Congress overhauled the budget process and procedure, with the longest lasting 21 days during the presidency of Bill Clinton.
There was an 18-day shutdown under former President Barack Obama in 2013.