By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The first full day of the government shutdown began Saturday with lawmakers and President Donald Trump pointing fingers at each other over who is to blame.
Opening the Senate for a rare Saturday session, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Democrats he said are responsible for "plunging the country into this totally avoidable mess.
"The votes were there. The President was ready. The solution to this manufactured crisis was inches away," he said 12 hours after Democrats filibustered spending legislation that would have kept the government funded, but that did not include protections for 800,000 people brought illegally to the U.S. as children, known as "Dreamers.”
Democrats have hinged support for any spending bill on it including a renewal of protections for the group ahead of a March 5 deadline to approve 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 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.
It's inclusion, however, was not enough to sway Democrats who continue to stake their support on a DACA replacement.
The narrow 51-seat Republican majority in the Senate makes pushing a spending bill through the chamber nearly impossible without some bipartisan support. The Republican leadership needs to gather roughly a dozen Democrats to their side to come up with a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.
Addressing the Senate shortly after McConnell, the chamber's ranking Democrat placed blame squarely with Trump, saying the president "can't take yes for an answer.
"The breakdown of compromise is poisoning this Congress. And it all springs from president Trump," Schumer said. "President Trump appealed to Congress on national television to come up with a deal and he said he's sign it, he'd sign whatever Congress sent him. He said he'd take the heat for it. But when a bipartisan group of senators led by Senator [Lindsey] Graham and Senator [Dick] Durbin brought him that compromise he blew it up in a volcanic meeting at the White House."
The government shutdown comes exactly one year after Trump was sworn into office, and highlights the difficulties he continues to face in navigating Washington's legislative process.
"This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present. #DemocratShutdown" Trump wrote on Twitter.
To date, he has wracked up only one major victory -- an overhaul of America's tax code -- and the White House said in a statement he would not negotiate on immigration until the government reopens.
"We are committed to making sure the American people, especially our great military and the most vulnerable children are taken care of. The President will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government," spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Under the government shutdown federal workers will not be paid, and many will remain home as tasks deemed "non-essential" will not be carried out.
Law enforcement efforts, airport security, air traffic control, military operations and other tasks classified "essential" would proceed as normal, but federal employees who do work will not be paid during the shutdown.