The political finger pointing over government spending dramatically accelerated Thursday in Washington, a day before funding runs out for the federal government, as top Republicans joined with President Trump in an effort to blame Democrats for any government shutdown, accusing Democrats of trying to use talks over extra money for the military to win unrelated provisions on immigration.
In swift succession over a half hour period, the President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader were all on television, pointing the finger straight at Democrats in the Senate.
“If the Senate Democrats want to shut the government down,” Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference, “then that would be their choice to make.”
Meanwhile, the President ventured across the Potomac River to the Pentagon, where he said a shutdown would not only harm the military, but Mr. Trump said it was also an effort by Democrats to take away economic momentum from recent tax cuts.
“Democrats would like to blunt that by shutting down government,” the President said, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
At the same time on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was criticizing Democrats for trying to force Republicans to accept provisions dealing with immigration and the DACA program.
“Why would they filibuster government funding and shut down vital programs for Americans because we have not yet agreed on the best way to settle an unrelated issue?” McConnell said, making clear he was ready to take a hard line with the other party.
But even as Republicans showed a united front against Democrats on the shutdown, there were questions in GOP ranks about whether the House could pass a temporary funding measure, as a number of House Republicans said they were still ready to vote against that funding bill, not pleased with lack of action on spending by the Congress.
As for Democrats, they laughed at the idea that they were responsible for a possible shutdown, arguing that Republicans have the majority in the House and Senate, and control the White House as well.
“It’s a mess,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who said the funding debacle was the result of the “incompetence of Republicans.”
Democratic votes would be needed for any budget extension, as 60 votes are required to get around any filibuster.
If no deal is worked out by Friday night at midnight, then some government services would start to close.
The last federal government shutdown was in October 2013. That lasted 16 days.