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McConnell Announces Plan To Avert Partial Government Shutdown

Dec 19, 2018
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Congress appears to be on the verge of avoiding a partial government shutdown just days before a Friday deadline that was looming. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a plan that would delay a fight over funding for President Trump's border wall until February.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: Later this morning, I'll introduce a continuing resolution that will ensure continuous funding to the federal government. The measure will provide the resources necessary to continue normal operations through February the 8.

GREENE: All right. Let's turn to NPR's Kelsey Snell, who has been following this in Washington. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

GREENE: All right, continuing resolution to fund the government continuously, a lot of bureaucratic language here.

SNELL: Oh, yeah.

GREENE: What does this actually mean? Are we going to - expecting a vote at some point soon?

SNELL: Yeah that is Congress speak for - they are kicking the can down the road, another favorite Washington-ism.

GREENE: Right.

SNELL: They are going to be keeping government funding the same through February 8. And we do expect that the Senate could vote really quickly on this because Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke shortly after that and said that they would support this, though he did point out that President Trump backed down from his demand for a $5 billion border wall before he said they would accept it.

GREENE: OK. Important to point out there. I guess he sees it that way. So, I mean, just yesterday, we were talking about a shutdown looking really possible. What is this deal, and why did it come together so quickly this morning?

SNELL: Part of the reason it came together really quickly is simply that Christmas is coming, and a lot of these lawmakers want to get out of town. Not only do they want to get out of town for the normal reasons, a lot of people in the House, a lot of Republicans in the House lost. And they have nowhere to work, and they have no place to be. So they haven't really been showing up to votes anyway. They don't want to have a big spending fight.

And the president is supposed to leave on Friday to go to his resort at Mar-a-Lago. And there's been a lot of talk about the fact that this would be really bad optically for the government to shut down and have the president in Florida. So there's a lot of pressure to get this done and not a lot of time to do the kind of big deal that a lot of lawmakers said they were hoping to get done.

GREENE: Yeah, this was going to affect real lives. I mean, I was talking to our colleague, NPR's Brian Naylor, earlier, and he was describing how you would have had maybe TSA agents on the job as people were traveling for the holiday - they would have been on the job but not getting paid at all. So this would have been bad optics potentially for everyone on both sides of the aisle.

SNELL: Yeah. And border agents that work for the Department of Homeland Security also would likely have been working without pay during a shutdown. So this is, yeah, very bad optically speaking and really bad for people who would have a big question mark over the heads throughout the holidays.

GREENE: OK. So what exactly are we hearing from the White House now? Because the president had said he would be proud to shut down the government if it meant fighting for money for his border wall. Is - where is that argument now? Where's that fight go now?

SNELL: Well, all of a sudden yesterday, things started to get a little bit softer. And the White House was talking about border security and not so much the wall. And border security is actually where things were a few weeks ago before that meeting where Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer went to the White House and had that big, very public fight with the president.

GREENE: Right.

SNELL: Border security means doing things like working on fencing and repairing existing parts of the wall or, you know, adding sensors or more patrols along the border. Democrats generally support that. They just don't want that big physical barrier that the president's been talking about.

GREENE: Interesting. There will be a totally different dynamic when they return to this showdown in February because Democrats will control the House. Republicans will have the Senate. What do we expect?

SNELL: We expect an actually pretty big fight here because, you know, Republicans will control the Senate, but they won't have the 60 votes they need to get on to any piece of legislation. Democrats will still have to help them get any spending bill passed. So really, Democrats have serious leverage next year, more leverage than they have right now. And I think the president maybe isn't quite aware of how that'll work out.

GREENE: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, thanks for the update.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.