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On Capitol Hill, partial government shutdown all but guaranteed

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are now expecting a partial government shutdown to take effect at midnight, after it became clear that Senate Republicans didn't have the votes to pass a funding bill the House approved. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss ongoing negotiations, the president's motives, why Democratic confidence is rising and what a shutdown would mean.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A partial government shutdown looms at midnight tonight, after a long day at the U.S. Capitol.

    Late today, Vice President Pence broke a tie to let the Senate consider funding the federal government into February. Leaders on both sides say that they will continue to negotiate before voting on anything.

    House Republicans already voted to add $5.7 billion for more security on the southern border, including a physical wall, something Democrats oppose.

    But, at a White House event today, President Trump insisted again that he will accept nothing less.

  • Donald Trump:

    It's up to the Democrats. So, it's really the Democrat shutdown, because we have done our thing. And when Nancy Pelosi said you will never get the votes in the House, we got them, and we got them by a big margin, 217-185.

    So now it's up to the Democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don't, but we're totally prepared for a very long shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mr. Trump said last week that he would take the responsibility for a shutdown. Today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it is clear where the blame lies.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    President Trump has thrown a temper tantrum, and now has us careening towards a Trump shutdown over Christmas.

    But there is only one way we will have a Trump shutdown, if President Trump clings to his position for an unnecessary, ineffective, taxpayer-funded border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Later, Leader Schumer met with Vice President Pence and other White House officials at the Capitol.

    Our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, and congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins have been following this all day long.

    And they join me now.

    Hello to both of you. So much to follow.

    So, Lisa, where does everything stand now? We just reported both that sides say they are still negotiating.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Judy, I can report right now, talking to sources in leadership and in the Republican Party, both the House and Senate, that a government showdown is now expected, at least a short one. Barring a miracle, we will see a partial showdown tonight at midnight.

    What's happened here today, Judy, is the Senate essentially waiting for its members to return, members who had left, some of whom had gone far west to the Dakotas, to Hawaii, waited all day to take an important vote, starting to get on the House version.

    Once they took that vote just a few minutes ago, it was clear that that House bill falls far short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate. So then Senate Republicans and Democrats have made this agreement, Judy, basically to step outside of the process on the Senate floor and to not take another vote in that chamber until there is a deal between Democrats and Republicans, including the president.

    So that means we don't know when we will see this shutdown end. We don't even know what a deal like that could look like. Those talks, honestly, Judy, have not begun in earnest. There hasn't been a real talk about what a deal like that could look like yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many questions, Lisa.

    So, Yamiche, over at the White House where do things from the president's perspective? He says he's not bending at all. What do you report? What does your reporting show?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is completely dug in on this demand to have $5 billion for a border wall.

    He's feeling as though, once Republicans lose control of the House, that he's not going to — it's going to be almost all but impossible for him to get this money. So he wants to get it before Democrats take control of the House.

    It's important to note that the Department of Homeland Security, which would be impacted by this government shutdown or partial government shutdown, they held a call today basically justifying what the $5 billion could go to.

    One of the things they said is, they could build 215 miles of new border wall or replacements. The other thing — important thing to note, the president, he's wagering a lot on this, not only his political capital, but his actual Christmas. He could be without his wife and his child, because first lady Melania Trump and Barron have already said that they will be going to Florida without the president.

    So until this government shutdown, or at least this partial government shutdown, if it happens, the president will be stuck in D.C. by himself.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, the president saying flat out he's prepared to stay in Washington. How confident are Democrats, then, that they are — that they have got the right strategy?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I will tell you, for the last couple of days, I have seen the confidence only increase for Democrats.

    Remember, Judy, in January, Democrats offered $25 billion for this wall in exchange for some protection for dreamers, children, people who were brought here as children illegally. Well, now Democrats feel even more strongly that their position of offering just $1 billion to $2 billion is the right one.

    They think the president has mishandled these negotiations and that they feel — they feel strongly. Now, the House will return tomorrow. I do expect the Senate also to be here. But it's not clear if this will at all be resolved over the weekend.

    And as to those miles of border fence, Yamiche makes a good point. Democrats counter that by saying that the billions of dollars this president has had for wall or fencing so far, that most of that has not been spent yet. And that's a normal part of process.

    But it's because they still have to ramp up the construction. They're saying there's no need for all of this money right now. Democrats are digging in just as much as Republicans at this moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, back to pointing fingers and saying who's to blame, how are they justifying? What are they saying at the White House about who's going to be held responsible?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is saying that the Democrats are to blame because they won't give him the $5 billion that he's wanted.

    Now, of course, the president at first had said that he was going to be proud to shut down the government, but he's changed his tune completely and is now saying that Democrats are to blame. He's been tweeting about this all day.

    One of the tweets he sent out was the design of what he would want for the border wall. It looks like almost a large white picket fence with spikes at the top. And he's basically sending the message, I want this built and I want it built now.

    The other thing that's important is that the president is fund-raising for his 2020 campaign using this border wall and the shutdown as an argument for why people should give his campaign money. He started what he called an official wall membership program, where people can give money to the campaign and be part of this wall membership.

    But I did have a source e-mail me today saying that they would go up with ads against the president if there was a shutdown. And some of the ads would say, jobs, not walls, and end the Trump showdown or — or the Trump shutdown.

    And they're going to use images of immigrant children who want to seek asylum in this country. So while the president has his messaging, his opponents are also readying their messaging.

  • Judy Woodruff:


    And finally, Lisa, if this shutdown goes ahead, if it happens, how are government agencies preparing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The agencies affected have spent a lot of time, Judy, and preparing their contingency plans.

    One thing to note for federal workers is that they will receive their next paycheck if a shutdown happens. It may be a little bit smaller than normal. But the paycheck that would be affected is not due to get into their bank accounts until January.

    But we took more of an overall look at exactly what this would mean. We put something together to show our viewers. Here you go.

    Of the 15 Cabinet agencies, nine would run out of funding if the government shuts down at midnight. They include some big ones: the departments of Homeland Security, Treasury and Justice.

    But that doesn't mean lights out; 420,000 essential employees in those departments would still have to work, without pay, over the holidays. This includes thousands in federal law enforcement and federal prisons. And at airports, tens of thousands of workers for the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, would stay on the job unpaid.

    Another 380,000 government employees would be furloughed and stay home. Often the most visible issue, the nation's 58 national parks would have no federal funds. Most would stay accessible, but services and facilities would close. There are a few exceptions, like the Grand Canyon, where states will intervene with their funding to keep things open.

    In all, about 25 percent of the government would feel the impact of the closures. But the shutdown wouldn't affect programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, the Postal Service and the military, which have separate revenue or have already been funded this year.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa, thank you. And thanks to Yamiche.

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