WASHINGTON – Mar-a-Lago’s $1,000-a-ticket New Year’s Eve party was left without its featured attraction on Monday, when club owner President Donald Trump remained in Washington because of the government shutdown he created over a border wall he had promised Mexico would pay for.
Trump had planned to spend both Christmas and New Year’s at his for-profit Mar-a-Lago resort, as he has done for years. Instead, he canceled his 16-day golfing vacation and spent the final day of 2018 at the White House, posting angry tweets about Democrats, who are refusing to agree to spend billions of taxpayer dollars for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
“I’m in the Oval Office. Democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall,” Trump wrote.
What else Trump did at the White House on Monday, apart from watching television, is not readily apparent. The White House press office stopped disseminating his public schedule two weeks ago and did not respond to HuffPost queries about Trump’s activities.
Since the shutdown, Trump has been blaming Democrats. Nevertheless, it was the president himself who brought about the partial government shutdown by reneging on his agreement to sign a short-term spending bill to fund the quarter of the federal government that wasn’t covered by earlier bills he had already signed into law.
Trump reversed course after Fox News and radio talk show hosts ridiculed him for caving on his campaign promise to build a border wall. Trump insisted the new spending plan include $5 billion for the wall — even though he had promised hundreds of times during his campaign that his “great, great” wall would not cost Americans anything because he would force Mexico to pay for it.
That left some 800,000 federal government employees in paycheck limbo. About half were furloughed when funding for their agencies ran out at midnight Dec. 21; the other half were deemed “essential” and forced to work anyway. None will receive another paycheck until Trump has signed a bill resuming funding.
When that might take place is unclear. Trump has vowed he will not accept any measure that does not include billions for his wall — although the precise nature of that wall is now unknown — while Democrats say they are not interested in spending U.S. taxpayer money on a project Trump had promised he would make Mexico finance.
Republicans still control both the House and Senate, but Trump has focused his attacks on Democrats. Because Republicans only have 51 seats in the Senate, they need at least nine Democratic senators to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation in that chamber.
The Democrats’ position only gets stronger on Thursday, when California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi is set to become the next speaker after her party picked up 40 seats and control of the House in the November midterm elections.
Her plan is to pass a spending package of bills that already cleared the Senate appropriations committee to provide full-year funding for most of the affected agencies, and also a two-month extension for the Department of Homeland Security. The idea of a short-term extension for all of the unfunded agencies was considered so uncontroversial that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought it to the floor for a voice vote, where it passed unanimously on Dec. 19.
Those votes of approval from Senate Republicans, though, will carry no weight with McConnell now, a top aide said Monday. “It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won’t sign,” said Don Stewart.
Should McConnell refuse to take up those bills after the Democratic House passes them, that will prove he is merely a rubber stamp for Trump and his whims, Democrats said.
“Then they are complicit with President Trump in continuing the Trump shutdown and in holding the health and safety of the American people and workers’ paychecks hostage over the wall,” Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.