Lawmakers return to snowy Washington with shutdown talks frozen in place

(Photo/Katie Barlow)

by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger

Lawmakers return to snow-covered Washington today with negotiations to reopen the government still frozen in place for a record 24th day.

No talks occurred over the weekend, although Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says he asked President Trump to reopen the government and negotiate for more border wall money later.

“He’s not going to give in.” – Graham on Fox News Sunday

Several other options are also off the table for the time being.

The president has backed away from his threat to circumvent Congress by declaring a national emergency to redirect money for the border wall, which would have paved the way for the government to reopen but would also have opened the spigot on a stream of legal challenges.

Trump ran into opposition from within his own party on that front, with conservatives worrying that it would set a precedent that could be exploited by a future Democratic president.

“I would hate to see it. Using that act, it would be – in this instance would be a far larger act than has ever occurred in the past.” – Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on CNN’s “State of the Union”

And a potential collaboration to provide a pathway to citizenship for those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in exchange for more border wall money is going nowhere in the Democratic-controlled House.

Will growing pressure in the fourth week of the shutdown move the two sides to a deal?

Trump and lawmakers may want to resolve the shutdown before leaving for the long Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, but so far neither side has been negotiating with a sense of urgency.

The Hill: No clear path forward as shutdown enters fourth week.

The Associated Press: Congress to face same question. When will shutdown end?

Meanwhile, stories about the real-world fallout from the shutdown are provoking anger and frustration in Washington and across the nation. About 400,000 federal workers have been furloughed and another 400,000 are working without pay, including border officials caught in the dispute over a wall.

Trump is expected to sign legislation this week guaranteeing back pay for federal workers, but many federal employees are hurting in the interim.

“The people we depend upon to find explosives in luggage, to find weapons in luggage, the people we depend upon to secure our borders, to look for contraband at courts, to look for narcotics at courts are the people under great stress right now because of this shutdown. And it must be leading — I think I know this work force — it must be leading to all kinds of uncertainty, stress and anxiety and, frankly, anger and resentment.” — Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on CBS’s “Face the Nation”

The Los Angeles Times: Border security workers miss paychecks.
The New York Times: Transportation Security Administration workers strike, raising turmoil at airports. A security checkpoint at Houston’s main airport is closed.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned last week that it’s only a matter of time before the impact of the shutdown shows up in the economic data.

The Wall Street Journal: Recession odds rise amid shutdown.
The Hill: Five ways the shutdown is impacting the economy.

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