Washington: A last minute meeting between US President Donald Trump and top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer to avert a government shutdown due to lack of funds, failed after the two leaders continued to “have a good number of differences”.
The meeting was held at the request of Trump as part of his efforts to reach a deal with Democrats on at least a short-term extension of government funding, which needs Congressional approval and the current authorisation ends today.
“We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues, we made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue,” Senate Minority Leader Schumer said in a brief statement soon after his meeting with Trump at the White House.
In the absence of such an authorisation, functioning of the federal government would come to a standstill, with hundreds and thousands of its employee would be forced to stop working at stay at home without pay.
The last time that a government shutdown happened was in 2013. It was for more than a fortnight.
At the Capitol, the Democratic Senators told reporters that the President asked Schumer to work with the Republican Congressional leadership to sort out their differences.
“The president told him to go back and talk to (House) Paul Ryan and (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and work it out,” Senator John Cornyn told reporters after he was briefed on by Schumer.
Trump who was scheduled to fly down to Florida to spend his weekend in Mar-a-Lago, but postponed his visit in view of an imminent government shutdown.
Earlier in the day, the Director of Office of Management of Budget Mick Mulvaney told reporters that efforts are being made to have the government shutdown less impactful than it was in 2013.
“We’re going to manage the shutdown differently. We are not going to weaponise it. We’re not going to try and hurt people, especially people having to work for this federal government. But we still need Congress to appropriate the funds,” he said.
Giving an insight into the planning purpose, Mulvaney said military will still go to work; the border will still be patrolled; fire folks will still be fighting the fires; and the parks will be open. But in each of these cases people will not be paid.
Fanny and Freddy will be open, the post office will be open, the Transportation Security Administration will be open, but again all of these people will be working for nothing, which is simply not fair, he said.
Notably the House of Representative has already approved a short-term extension of government funding for about a month, but the legislation is now stuck in the Senate.
The Republican who enjoy a think majority of 51 in a 100 -member Senate, needs nine more votes from the opposition Democratic party as the legislation requires 60 votes for passage.
Mulvaney slammed the Democrats for such a situation to arise.
“The president stands ready to sign that bill to keep the government functioning and afloat. It appears, unfortunately, that Senate Democrats are entrenched in forcing a shutdown. I think there is obviously a lot of hypocrisy in this town. I think there’s some ironies to point out,” he said.