The United States government shut down at midnight on Friday after Democrats and Republicans, locked in a bitter dispute over immigration and border security, failed to agree on a last-minute deal to fund its operations.
In a late-night session, senators blocked a bill to extend government funding through Feb. 16. The bill needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate but only 50 supported it.
Most Democrats opposed the bill because their efforts to include protections for hundreds of thousands of mostly young immigrants, known as Dreamers, were rejected by President Donald Trump and Republican leaders.
Huddled negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer were unsuccessful, and the U.S. government technically ran out of money at midnight.
While the two men said they remained committed to reaching a deal, the shutdown formally began on Saturday, the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
His inability to cut a deal despite enjoying a Republican majority in both houses of Congress highlighted the deep political divide in Washington.
Until a funding deal is worked out, scores of federal agencies across the country will be unable to operate, and hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” federal workers will be put on temporary unpaid leave.
“Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans,” the White House said in a statement.
It also said it would not discuss immigration until the government was up and running again.
“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behaviour of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
In return, Schumer pointed the finger directly at Trump.
“It’s almost as if you were rooting for a shutdown and now we’ll have one and the blame should crash entirely on President Trump’s shoulders,” he said.
Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to reopen negotiations on Saturday and said they were committed to getting a quick agreement.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney talks with reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018.
But both sides may now be even less willing to make concessions because a political defeat on the issue could be costly, especially with the control of Congress up for grabs at midterm elections later this year.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a stopgap funding measure on Thursday. But Republicans then needed the support of at least 10 Democrats to pass the bill in the Senate. While five Democrats ended up voting for the measure, five Republicans voted against it.
Democratic leaders wanted the measure to include protections from deportation for about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
Despite bipartisan negotiations, Republican leaders refused to include those protections, and neither side was willing to back down.
Trump, who had made strict measures on immigration a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, last week rejected a bipartisan proposal.
He said he wanted to include any deal for Dreamers in a bigger legislative package that also boosted funding for a wall and tighter security measures along the US border with Mexico.
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