By Felicia Sonmez
December 27 at 3:29 PM
Breaking: Congress Thursday effectively gave up on trying to reopen a quarter of the federal government until after the new year, as negotiations stalled out among Republican and Democratic leaders.
House members were told they would not be expected back for votes this week, and the Senate was expected to follow suit, according to Democratic and Republican aides. That would hand the job of reopening the federal government to Democrats when they take control of the House in January.
Congress was expected to convene briefly Thursday afternoon, on day six of the shutdown, but then close for legislative business until new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 3.
President Trump did not appear in public Thursday and leadership offices were shuttered on Capitol Hill amid the standoff on the president’s demand for billions of dollars to fund a border wall that Democrats oppose.
President Trump on Thursday claimed that “most of the people not getting paid” in the partial government shutdown are Democrats, days after he contended that many federal workers support his call for more border wall funding.
Trump made the claim in a morning tweet as the shutdown entered its sixth day, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed without pay amid signs pointing toward a prolonged standoff.
“Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border,” Trump said in the tweet. “Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”
Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking,Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2018
The message contrasted with Trump’s claim in an Oval Office appearance on Christmas morning that “many of those workers” had told him to continue to shut down the government “until you get the funding for the wall.”
“These federal workers want the wall,” Trump said at the time.
About 25 percent of the federal government has been shut down since Saturday, with roughly 800,000 workers affected, including an estimated 350,000 who are on furlough at home without pay. At the heart of the stalemate is Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for his proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Congressional Democrats have rejected that figure and made counteroffers for border security of as much as $1.6 billion.
But the two sides remain deadlocked, and it appears unlikely that a resolution will come before the week is out. The Senate is set to convene at 4 p.m. Thursday, but no votes are scheduled. The House, meanwhile, is out of session until further notice, and the office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Wednesday that it will give lawmakers 24 hours’ notice of any expected votes in the chamber.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Democrats’ likely plan is to put a bill that funds the government, without money for Trump’s wall, on the floor on Jan. 3. That is the first day of the new session of Congress, when Democrats take control of the House.
With no end to the shutdown in sight, the Office of Personnel Management sent out a Twitter posting Thursday morning in which it shared advice and letter templates for federal workers to use in negotiating for deferred rent and payments to other creditors.
“As we discussed, I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency. Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my rent, along with my other expenses,” one of the sample letters reads. It also suggests the possibility of doing building chores in exchange for reduced payments.
Trump’s tweet on Thursday prompted criticism from some Democrats who argued that federal workers are not the partisans the president has made them out to be.
“This is outrageous,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said in a tweet. “Federal employees don’t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They’re public servants. And the President is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sounded a similar note, saying that federal employees affected by the shutdown “work for the FBI & TSA (not GOP or DNC).”
“They signed up to protect us & work for America regardless of party,” she said in a tweet.
A nationally representative 2010 Gallup survey found that the political leanings of federal employees depended in part on whether they belonged to a union. Among federal union members, 40 percent identified as Democrats, 31 percent said they were independent, and 27 percent identified as Republican. Among federal workers not belonging to a union, 29 percent identified as Democrats, 36 percent said they were independent, and 33 percent identified as Republican. Of the federal employees surveyed, 1,954 were members of a union while 6,607 were not.
A more recent survey by Government Executive of 1,791 federal employees from 25 agencies found that 24 percent of federal workers identified as Democrats, with an identical amount identifying as Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of workers in the 2018 survey said they were politically independent. Because the sample of employees was drawn from subscribers to Government Executive magazines, these numbers are not representative of the entire federal workforce.
Among federal workers who donated to a presidential candidate in 2016, an overwhelming number gave to Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, according to an analysis of federal campaign contributions by The Hill.
A recent CNN poll showed that 61 percent of respondents oppose building a border wall without any funding from Mexico. Only 33 percent of respondents support such a plan, including 75 percent of Republicans, 32 percent of independents and just 4 percent of Democrats.
Jeff Stein and Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.
Source: The Washington Post