With House Adjourned, Government Shutdown Is All But Guaranteed

Dec 21, 2018
Originally published on December 21, 2018 8:13 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A quarter of the federal government is headed to a shutdown. Negotiations do continue on Capitol Hill tonight, but the House has adjourned, and lawmakers will be given 24 hours' notice before their next vote. That means a shutdown will likely stretch into the weekend at minimum. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow joins me from Capitol Hill. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good evening.

KELLY: So let me attempt to summarize where we are. The president is dug in. He says he will not sign a bill unless it's got the $5 billion he wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats are dug in. They say they're not going to give him $5 billion for a wall. Is there any progress trying to bridge this gap?

DETROW: This is the best way to grasp how little progress has been made. The big progress today was that the Senate agreed on a procedural vote to keep negotiating.

KELLY: Yeah.

DETROW: Tennessee...

KELLY: Huge breakthrough.

DETROW: Yep. Yep. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker explained the state of things on the Senate floor just after that vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB CORKER: We're not voting on anything else in this chamber relative to this issue until a global agreement has been reached between the president and these two leaders and the leader of the House.

DETROW: So the thing is, though, all of those people are talking. Vice President Pence was on the Hill most of the afternoon, shuttling between meetings with Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan and other lawmakers. We don't really know what those talks are focusing on right now, but we know they are happening and continuing.

KELLY: OK. But if they're going to have to find some kind of middle ground at some point, do we have any idea what that might look like?

DETROW: Starting to get a sense of what it could be - I mean, remember. The president's stance - what the House passed is dead in the Senate. They're not even voting on it because the votes aren't there. So ironically, one solution could be something like where we all started. And that was these talks going back to one of the initial offers from Democrats, giving something like $1 1/2 billion, maybe a little bit more to give Trump the ability to claim a victory for border security.

The big question, though, is would the president accept that because if you remember all of two or three days ago - it's hard in this news cycle. But two or three days ago, the White House did signal that they would be fine with getting much less than that $5 billion. And that's why the Senate unanimously passed a funding bill without it. And it was only after the president began to reconsider things that the House changed course and put the money back in.

KELLY: Well, so here we sit with Christmas a few days away. Congress was supposed to be done for the year. They were all supposed to have flown out, flown home. What is the timeline for how long a shut - shutdown might last and where this might all go next?

DETROW: Well, one of the problems today was that much of the Senate actually did fly home, and they had to turn around and fly back. So it took almost six hours for that one Senate vote as senators came from the airport. But it's really unclear what happens next. If talks do make progress tonight into tomorrow, we could see votes this weekend. After that, though, it becomes unclear because you've got Christmas early next week. So the question is, do they plow through the holidays, or do they all take a break and come back and try and solve this at the end of next week?

KELLY: Scott Detrow reporting from Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

DETROW: Sure thing. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.