Negotiations over the partial government shutdown that began early Saturday have stalled, and the Senate doesn’t plan to hold any formal meetings until next Thursday, making it increasingly likely that many federal workers won’t be back on the job after their Christmas break.
The sticking point remains President Donald Trump’s insistence on $5 billion to expand the border wall separating the U.S. and Mexico.
Following the posture of Trump and Senate Republican leaders, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, placed the blame for the shutdown on the minority party.
“Securing our nation’s borders is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government,” he wrote in a tweet. “Five billion dollars for border security efforts that will save lives is a very reasonable request, and I hope Democrats will end this spending impasse soon.”
Lee was one of seven Republican lawmakers to attend a lunch with Trump at the White House on Saturday to discuss the shutdown and border security. Among those attendees, some wanted the president to fight for the border wall; others preferred to get the government reopened. Lee declined to comment on that meeting.
If the shutdown extends into early January, Democrats will take control of the House and Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, will be replaced by Rep.-elect Ben McAdams, a Democrat, who is now the mayor of Salt Lake County. The switchover will happen on Jan. 3.
“I’m not convinced spending $5 billion on a wall is the most effective use of taxpayer dollars to protect the border,” McAdams said Saturday.
He added: “I hope productive bipartisan discussions end this shutdown soon. I support Dreamers, fixing our broken immigration system, and I support funding to protect the border.”
The House passed a budget bill that included Trump’s $5 billion earlier in the week. Utah Republican Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis voted for it. Love, who lost in a close election in November, has not participated in House votes in recent days.
Bishop, in a statement, said he voted for the package “to keep the government open and to secure the borders of our country.” He called the vote “a no-brainer.”
The Senate, led by Republicans, could not secure the votes to pass that bill. And a negotiated plan to keep the government operating without the border wall money fell apart when Trump said he’d refuse to sign it.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose 42-year Senate career ends Jan. 3, didn’t vote Friday on a motion to proceed to the budget bill. He’ll be replaced by Sen.-elect Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican and 2012 presidential nominee. Romney declined to comment on the shutdown Saturday.
The shutdown means that some federal workers will be furloughed, others will be expected to work without pay and parts of the government already funded, such as Defense, will not be affected. The impasse blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.
The disruption affected many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas. An additional 380,000 will be furloughed.
Federal employees already were granted an extra day of vacation on Monday, Christmas Eve, thanks to an executive order that Trump signed this past week. The Senate passed legislation ensuring that workers will receive back pay. The House seemed sure to follow suit.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has set aside $80,000 to make sure Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon national parks remain open through the end of the year.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the “Trump shutdown” could end immediately if Trump simply dropped his demand for money that was the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Trump had pledged that Mexico would pay for the wall; Mexico has refused.
“If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall,” Schumer said.
Democrats said they were open to other proposals that don’t include the wall, which Schumer said was too costly and unpopular. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the Senate on Saturday, saying any deal to reopen government would require Democratic support for passage and the president’s signature.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.