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How the looming shutdown would affect federal workers

The hours are ticking down to a possible government shutdown. Early in the day there were rumors of a possible five-day deal. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was summoned to the White House, but returned to the Capitol without a deal. Is there any glimmer of hope? Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to recap a day of dealing and blaming and explain what’s next.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As the hours ticked down to midnight, and a possible federal government shutdown, it was a day of dealing and blaming for politicians on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The day began with a tweet, President Trump writing- "Senate Democrats are needed for a short-term spending bill, but want illegal immigration and weak borders." He then asked, "Shutdown coming?"

    However, within hours, it was fellow Republican Lindsey Graham who tweeted that he is not going to support the president's one-month deal, calling the situation a fiasco.

    Across town, the defense secretary, responsible for roughly two million personnel, troops and civilian, stressed a decade of budget crises have choked military planning.

  • James Mattis:

    Wasting copious amounts of precious taxpayer dollars.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At 11.00 a.m., the Senate was back in session, and in the hallways, rumors were flying of a possible five-day deal. But on the floor, party leaders showed only acrimony.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell:

    Now that we are 13 hours away from a government shutdown that Democrats would initiate and Democrats would own, the craziness of this seems to be dawning on my friend, the Democratic leader.

  • Sen. Dick Durbin:

    The Republican majority in the House and Senate, with their president, have failed to come up with a blueprint for spending for this great nation that we serve and are proud to be part of.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meanwhile, Republicans, including Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, were trying to brand the shutdown with a Democratic name.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    OMB is preparing for what we're calling the Schumer shutdown.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    After Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer himself was staying quiet, behind the scenes looking for short-term options.

    But just before noon, a setback- House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows Told NewsHour, House leadership rejected a five-day deal.

    More signs of a shutdown, House members, taking what were supposed to be their last votes of the week, were told not to leave town. And President Trump canceled his flight to Mar-a-Lago. Within the hour, Mr. Trump called Schumer, summoning him to the White House for a one-on-one summit of sorts. Schumer returned to the Capitol with positive words, but no deal.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Next, hours of waiting, filled only by speeches on the Senate floor that changed nothing, except they passed the shortening time until a shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if Congress and the White House do not meet their deadline tonight, hundreds of thousands of federal employees, almost half of all civilian federal workers, wouldn't be able to do their jobs.

    Some government functions will not be affected. The Postal Service will continue to deliver mail. Air traffic controllers from the FAA and airport security officers from the TSA will stay on the job. And the government will keep providing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

    In addition, the Interior Department says that it will keep national parks as accessible as possible. And that's a shift from previous shutdowns. Still, this shutdown could have serious ramifications for many government agencies.

    More than half of IRS employees would be sent home, even as it gets ready for tax season and adjusts to the new tax law. And it could tie up the Department of Health and Human Services, as it grapples with the difficult ongoing flu season.

    But back to the swirl of shutdown politics ahead of tonight's deadline.

    Lisa Desjardins, whose report we just heard, she joins us from Capitol Hill. And Yamiche Alcindor, who's been watching this story unfold from the White House today, is with us here.

    Welcome back to both of you.

    Lisa, I feel like I have been asking you this question every night for many, many nights, but where do we stand right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    What is going on? Yes.

    Actually, Judy, in the last half-hour, there is a glimmer of hope. Senate Majority Leader John Cornyn — Senate Whip John Cornyn came out and told members of the press that he thinks there will be a vote tonight.

    Also, we heard from the OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, that he also thinks there is a potential for a deal tonight speaking on another network.

    Now, what this means is that potentially Democrats and Republicans are getting closer to at least having a vote. We don't know if that's going to be a final agreement or not. I spoke to — I e-mailed with one of my top Democratic sources. They said it's unclear.

    But, Judy, I think the biggest sign is this sound right now, which is silence. The last two hours, three hours here at the Capitol have been incredibly quiet. And I think we both know that means actually maybe there is progress behind the scenes.

    Democrats have asked for a shorter-term C.R., five days or less. That was rejected, I'm told, by Republicans this morning. Now Republicans say they will accept something only two weeks or more. Maybe they're negotiating somewhere in between, but I think the next few hours will tell us a lot.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, we know the president tweeted, but he's been kind of unusually quiet on that front today. What's is he saying? What is his role?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, I think he has actually stepped up a lot of his efforts, in that he's actually summoning people the White House. He's actually sending out both Marc Short, the legislative director, and Mick Mulvaney to go out and publicly speak about this.

    And then he's sending Marc Short to the Hill, where, from my understanding, he's there right now meeting with lawmakers. The idea is that President Trump is saying he had an excellent meeting with Chuck Schumer, he's saying that they're making progress on Twitter, and he's also saying that he's wanting a four-week extension, which is probably not going to happen.

    But the idea is that he's actually saying and being clear about what he wants, which Mitch McConnell has said in the past was a real problem, that lawmakers didn't know what he wanted.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, the four-month — I mean, four-week extension is what is in the proposal right now.

    Lisa, let's talk about the pressure on both sides. What are these — what are the Democrats and the Republicans dealing with right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    A shutdown usually happens when either one side believe it's in their favor or both sides do. Right now, speaking to sources outside of the Capitol, sort of lobbyist sources on the left, there are some progressive groups who do believe a shutdown would help negotiations over DACA.

    But there is a very earnest conversation happening right now on the left over whether they have overplayed that and whether in fact the momentum is going the other way.

    On the right, there are some conservatives who think a shutdown would help them, in that they believe Democrats would be blamed. However, there was polling today in The Washington Post showing that more Americans, at least in that poll, blame Republicans. So there are Republicans who are worried that they would be blamed more.

    And, Judy, I think while we look at who would gain from a shutdown, right now, we have a situation where there is pressure on both parties starting to believe that both of them would be blamed.

    Judy, maybe the smartest people I talked to today — I'm not exaggerating — were the tourists in the Capitol. It was full of tourists today, not just because the March of Life is here, but also because of several conventions in town.

    Americans are very well read in on this situation. And nearly everyone I talked to, Democrat, Republican, said they would in fact blame both sides.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche, if this shutdown happens, if they don't get it figured out tonight, what does that mean for all the federal workers here?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mick Mulvaney essentially said that there are going to be a set of workers that are going to have to go to work and not get paid.

    He said that military workers, post office workers, people that are patrolling the borders, these are people that are going to have to essentially show up and not get a paycheck.

    And then when reporters started shouting, well, are they going to get back pay — in the past, reporters and workers essentially have been able to get back pay, but in this case he wouldn't answer the question. I e-mailed the office later to ask. And I still have not gotten an answer.

    So it's a real question mark. The contingency plans put online by the federal government illustrate that they are likely going to pay people if they don't get paid.

    But part of the other issue that's going on here is that military families are going to be impacted by the services that they receive. Something that people are very familiar with, which is commissaries, these are subsidized groceries for military families, those things would be closed down.

    So you potentially would have people working for no pay and then having to pay more money for their milk and their sugar. So, it's going to be a real mess.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, just quickly, you have been also looking at the effects on federal agencies, taking a look at what it means for individual government workers.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    And I think one thing, you covered it so well earlier, but I think people don't realize that there are many agencies that in large part have the vast majority of their staff remain.

    That is Defense and Homeland Security have hundreds of thousands of people who stay on the job. The smaller agencies are the ones that are affected the most. They are the ones that usually shut down the most.

    Here at the Capitol, I can tell you one of the door keepers, whose job it is to — kind of unsung heroes, stand outside of the chamber and protect the members of the Senate — told me they just wish this was a day where someone was handing out free Tylenol.

    There really is a sense of frustration here about this whole situation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for the press, for the reporters.



  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, we will see how long you have to stay there tonight. Same with you Yamiche.

    Thank you very much.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


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