President Donald Trump suggested he could force a prolonged government shutdown Wednesday as the partial closure dragged into its fifth day.
Funding for nine federal departments lapsed Saturday amid an impasse over whether to fund the president’s proposed border wall. As congressional leaders and the White House appear to make little progress toward a deal, the shutdown could last past Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House.
Asked Wednesday during a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq how long he would wait to see his demands met, Trump responded: “Whatever it takes.” The comment suggests little willingness on the president’s part to back down as Democrats refuse to approve funds for the proposed barrier.
“Nancy is calling the shots,” Trump added, referencing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and the likely next House speaker. The president has recently tried to blame Democrats for the closure, even though he said earlier this month that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.”
Democrats have pledged to quickly pass a short-term spending bill without wall money when they take control of the House. Before the shutdown started, the Senate approved legislation to fund the government through Feb. 8 without funding for the barrier.
But after Trump threatened to veto the proposal, it crumbled in the GOP-controlled House. The chamber passed the president’s desired $5 billion for the wall. Democrats refused to approve that bill in the Senate, where the GOP has a 51-49 majority and needs 60 votes.
The party’s leaders and the Trump administration are not close to a deal to break the stalemate. Congress is set to convene Thursday, but many members will not return to Washington after holiday travel as a vote on a spending bill is not expected yet.
If the closure carries into the new Congress, Democrats will have a wide enough House majority to approve funding legislation on their own. Any spending bill will need support from at least some Senate Republicans, as the GOP will hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber next year.
But if Trump continues to threaten to veto any bill without wall funding, it will make ending the shutdown difficult.
Congress can override a presidential veto, but it requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. That equals 290 representatives and 67 senators. As of now, Democrats will have 235 members in the new House, meaning they would have to bring 55 Republicans on board to override a veto.
A bipartisan compromise seems difficult to mount. As Trump insists on border wall funding, many GOP lawmakers will not want to go against his wishes. Democrats will have a hard time striking a compromise that includes border security money, as the party’s more liberal wing will resist any effort to let Trump have his way on immigration.
About 800,000 federal employees were expected to face furloughs or temporarily work without pay during the partial shutdown. While lawmakers already passed spending bills for departments such as Defense and Health and Human Services, others such as Homeland Security, Justice and State remain unfunded.