Government Shutdown Is Now Longest In Modern History As Dems Party In Puerto Rico

The partial government shutdown, now in its 23rd day, is officially the longest in modern US history as the impasse over funding for Trump's southern border wall continues. 

With Congress out of town for the weekend, President Trump tweeted: "I'm in the White House, waiting. The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay. They are having fun and not even talking!" 

Well, they're not all "not even talking" - as evidenced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) hanging out in Puerto Rico along with more than two dozen Democrats from the Hispanic Caucus. Menendez was spotted talking to a bikini-clad woman.

President Trump says he won't sign any spending package that does not include $5.7 billion for his wall - leaving nine of 15 major federal agencies without congressional funding since Dec. 22, according to the Wall Street Journal

"I do have a plan on the Shutdown," Trump tweeted on Saturday. "But to understand that plan you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised safety and security for the American people. Part of that promise was a Wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences!"

Without a clear solution, Trump could make good on his recent threats to declare a national emergency and divert funding from other departments to build a wall without congressional approval - a move which could pave the way for the shutdown to end, yet leaving the wall in the hands of the courts. 

And while wealthy Washington bureaucrats play chicken, hundreds of thousands of federal employees missed their first paychecks Friday, ratcheting up pressure to end the shutdown.

That said, there is enough temporary funding for millions of Americans to continue to receive food stamps through February, according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue - while the IRS will pay tax refunds despite the agency being subject to the shutdown. 

In one sign that lawmakers are feeling some pressure, the House on Friday passed a bill approving back pay for federal employees who missed their paychecks because of the shutdown.

The bill, which the Senate approved late Thursday, mandates that the roughly 420,000 essential employees now working without pay and the 380,000 furloughed workers be compensated as soon as the government reopens. Mr. Trump said Friday he would sign the bill.

If Mr. Trump declares a national emergency, officials may divert military construction funds to build the wall. Federal law allows the president to halt military construction projects and divert those funds for the emergency. -WSJ

"I don’t want him to do that," said Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) of the national emergency option. "I would hate to see that money moved around." 

Another wall funding option panned by both parties is asking the US Army Corps of Engineers to explore diverting funds allocated in 2018 to projects providing disaster relief for Puerto Rico, Texas, California and Florida. 

"It’s going to piss off a lot of members," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. 

GOP Senators, meanwhile, are trying to come up with a solution that they hope will end the impasse. 

On Friday, Sens. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Jerry Moran (R., Kansas) introduced legislation that would establish a $25 billion trust fund for border security to pay for at least 700 miles of reinforced fencing, additional physical barriers and more technology.

The bill also would include protections for a group of undocumented immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. at a young age by their parents. Mr. Trump ended an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, shielding hundreds of thousands of the immigrants from deportation, but his action was rejected by an appeals court in November. The issue is expected to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. -WSJ

The bill from Portman and Moran would allow so-called Dreamers to renew their protected status every two years. Trump, meanwhile, wants to address DACA - the Obama-era law governing Dreamers, after the Supreme Court has weighed in.