clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump blames Democrats for government shutdown

The president said Democrats are giving him a “nice present” on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration by shutting down the government.

Donald Trump eyes downcast, looking sad Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

The federal government officially shut down at 12:01 am on Saturday as Republicans and Democrats remain in a standoff over a spending bill; President Donald Trump is attempting to place the blame on Democrats after lawmakers failed to get enough votes for a short-term bill to fund the government. In light of yesterday’s events, the president canceled a trip to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where he had intended to have a party in celebration of the one-year mark. This is the first time in history the government has truly shut down under one-party control.

In a series of tweets on Saturday morning, Trump said Democrats are more concerned with “illegal immigrants” than with the military and border security, and that they could have easily reached a deal with Republicans but “decided to play shutdown politics instead.” Both parties, and the president, share blame for the shutdown.

At the center of the debate is an impasse over immigration — specifically, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects nearly 700,000 immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Trump rescinded the program in September and called for Congress to come up with a legislative solution; when it did, in a bipartisan deal put together by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), Trump struck down the bill.

House Republicans on Thursday passed a bill to fund the government for four weeks and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance for millions of children, for six years — after failing to reauthorize the program for four months post-expiry. But the bill failed in the Senate, where it needed 60 votes. Forty-five Senate Democrats and five Senate Republicans voted against it, with the Democrats saying that the bill needs a DACA fix and the Republicans citing varying reasons, including, for some, DACA.

Republicans have dug in to pit DACA recipients against CHIP, even though they could, presumably, pass a CHIP extension as a standalone bill. They say Democrats are overly focused on DACA and overlooking other pressing matters that will be affected by the shutdown.

Democrats think they have a strong case for DACA after Trump’s highly publicized racist tirade in which he referred to certain “shithole countries” and complained about taking immigrants from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations.

Trump wants to blame the Democrats, but it’s not that simple

Since the federal government shut down, the White House has attempted to place the blame squarely on Democrats. In a statement on Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Senate Democrats “own the Schumer Shutdown,” referring to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). She reiterated the point in a Saturday morning tweet.

Schumer met with Trump on Friday, reportedly on Trump’s invitation, in an attempt to strike an agreement. Schumer has said that Trump was presented with two bipartisan deals, including one in which the Democrats would entertain negotiations for Trump’s proposed wall at the US-Mexico border, but it didn’t work. Trump appears to want something he sees as tougher on immigration, though it’s not clear specifically what.

What’s worth noting, however, is that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. Getting a bill through the Senate requires 60 votes and therefore some Democratic buy-in, because there are 51 Republicans in the Senate — but five Republicans voted against the House bill as well. One was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who according to the New York Times did so for procedural reasons. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mike Lee (UT), and Rand Paul (KY) also voted against it. Since last night, #DemocratShutdown, #SchumerShutdown, and #TrumpShutdown have all trended on Twitter.

As Vox’s Dylan Matthews recently noted, Republicans and Democrats alike purport to believe DACA recipients deserve relief, and Trump has said he wants a “bill of love” that would offer them legal status. Moreover, if Republicans had 50 votes in the Senate, they could conceivably eliminate the filibuster to pass a spending bill without the Democrats. Democrats have clearly decided that it’s worth shutting down the government over DACA, but it’s not clear exactly why Republicans won’t do a deal on DACA given their insistence that they want to.

Whatever the case, there’s no way of knowing how long the shutdown will last, regardless of whom Trump tries to blame.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.