Morning News Brief: Government Shutdown Enters 3rd Day

Jan 22, 2018
Originally published on January 22, 2018 7:42 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And this is day three of a government shutdown.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yeah. Lawmakers worked all weekend to try to reach an agreement. Last night, the Senate leadership agreed to vote on a resolution that's going to happen today around noon Eastern. If it passes, the government will reopen for three weeks. But the debate over immigration policy, the reason the government shut down in the first place, has yet to be resolved.

GREENE: And let's see where this might be going with NPR's Scott Detrow, who's here. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, David.

GREENE: OK, so we have a vote today at noon that if it goes in one direction, it could reopen the government at least until February 8. Are Democrats signaling that they are willing to support this?

DETROW: It seems like just enough Democrats might support this. So just to recap, Mitch McConnell went on the Senate floor last night and promised the Senate will address immigration next. That follows talks all weekend by a large group of moderate senators from both parties looking for a way out. So many of the Democrats who had been pushing for this confrontation all along say this is just status quo. There's nothing new here. There's no difference between a three-week funding bill and a four-week funding bill.

And promises to deal with immigration is what McConnell and President Trump have promised all along and kept punting, so there's frustration from many Democrats. But a lot of moderate Democrats, Democrats up for reelection next year do not want a protracted shutdown and seem to be looking for an off ramp all weekend.

GREENE: Well, I mean, you mentioned President Trump - a lot of Democrats complaining and saying that they can't trust him because he can change his mind unexpectedly. Where has the president been in all of this so far?

DETROW: Curiously absent ever since the shutdown began. President Trump stayed in the White House all weekend, no public appearances, not even that many tweets, just some pictures the White House sent out of him in the Oval Office making calls, wearing a make America great again hat. And from what we can tell, he has not really been too involved in the negotiations, which is interesting since one dynamic that brought us here is the fact that President Trump keeps seeming to agree to one thing in meetings with Democrats and then backtracking right afterwards.

Over the weekend, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, said negotiating with Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.

GREENE: One of those people in Washington who always come with a turn of phrase to capture attention is Chuck Schumer.

DETROW: I haven't negotiated with Jell-O, so I don't know.

GREENE: (Laughter) The president did tweet though something about maybe Republicans using a nuclear option. What would that be, Scott?

DETROW: Yeah, that would be changing the Senate rules so that you only need the bare majority of 51 votes to do anything. That's something that most senators from both parties don't want to do because they know that a couple of elections later, they could be the ones in the minority.

GREENE: All right, so both sides are accusing the other of playing politics. Some are calling this the Schumer shutdown, some are calling this the Trump shutdown. Last night, Senator Flake of Arizona said, let's end all the blame game rhetoric. But, I mean, are there political winners and losers here once this is resolved?

DETROW: So we'll stick with the blame game, I guess, (laughter) for our purposes. You know, I think that if this gets resolved with this deal we're talking about right now, three weeks instead of four weeks and still no hard promise on DACA, it's hard to say that Democrats got anything out of this. It looks like Republicans basically kept the status quo. We'll be able to end the shutdown for now, but I think it's important to point out that with just three weeks deal, we could be in this exact situation, maybe in another shutdown, in just a matter of weeks.

MARTIN: Can I point out two things? One, it was super interesting to hear Lindsey Graham say he doesn't feel like he has a valuable partner to negotiate in the White House, referring there to Stephen Miller, who's taken the lead on immigration policy, giving him a whole lot of influence - totally fascinating. And the second thing I want to note, the fashion of working over the weekend. When you have to be working over the weekend, apparently it's mandatory to wear the baseball hat.

We've got Trump wearing the baseball hat, we've got Lindsey Graham - I'm working on the weekend, I've got to have my hat on. That's all I have to say.

DETROW: (Laughter).

GREENE: A new fashion statement. Let's all wear hats next weekend together.

MARTIN: Right.

GREENE: Scott Detrow - thanks, Scott, we appreciate it.

DETROW: Thank you.

GREENE: So this federal shutdown, I mean, depending on how long it goes or maybe if it's just a few days, I mean, it really could affect millions of people in this country.

MARTIN: Right. And this is when federal employees have to ask this very awkward question. Am I essential, am I not essential? If you're not a so-called essential employee, then odds are you don't have to go to work today. The shutdown also means that hundreds of thousands of paychecks are currently on hold.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Wade Goodwyn has been looking at who has been hit the most by this shutdown. And, Wade, where is the biggest impact here?

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Well, at first, it's not really going to be all that bad. You know, as you mentioned, some workers are going to go to the office today to find out whether they're essential or not. But, you know, the category of what's considered to be an essential service can be expansive. Law enforcement, military, air traffic control, Veterans hospital, post office men and women will keep trudging through the weather. The post office has a funding stream that's happily independent of Congress.

You know, even at the Department of Agriculture, inspections of eggs, meat, dairy, poultry, those are considered essential to safeguarding American lives, so they'll keep right on inspecting. Social Security, Homeland Security, Justice Department, FBI, CIA keep right on going.

GREENE: Wow.

GOODWYN: I mean, can you imagine the chaos if all the TSA agents were suddenly furloughed? You know, not going to happen. There's going to be plenty of folks to pat you down.

GREENE: So, I mean, you're naming a list of agencies here that are still going to be operating. Who's not operating? I mean, break this down for us.

GOODWYN: Well, I mean, who's not operating is maybe the national parks. They're supposed to be open this time, they weren't last time. But if it were me, I'd check before I present myself at the gate. You know, another big one, if you're trying to buy a house and get a mortgage loan approved and your bank has to verify your income to your social security number and the IRS, the shutdown is going to be a big problem for you because the IRS is not deemed essential. You know, if that goes on for two or three weeks, it's going to drive realtors mad with frustration.

GREENE: Have you been talking to people who may or may not be affected by this?

GOODWYN: I did. I talked to a hydrologist out of Durango, Colo. named Derek Ryter. His science research helps keep the state of Oklahoma in drinking water, which is rather important. And here's Ryter.

DEREK RYTER: I'm very disappointed with the entire situation and also stressed because we have a lot of work we need to get done. You know, I can't miss a house payment. If I miss a paycheck, I don't have, you know, reserves to make up for something like this.

GOODWYN: You know, the 2013 shutdown lasted 16 days. And Standard and Poor's said that was about a $24 billion hit to the economy. Somebody should break down this price tag, you know, the political bickering hourly cost. Maybe that would get Congress's attention.

GREENE: That would be interesting. I mean, President Trump talking about the cost and what he sees as the cost, he has said that the shutdown is going to devastate the country's military. Is that true?

GOODWYN: Well, no. I mean, The Washington Post fact checker gave President Trump's tweets on this subject 3 Pinocchios out of 4, three Pinocchios meaning mostly false. The nation's military will soldier on, if it's not too early in the morning for bad puns. My apologies.

GREENE: Never apologize for that, Wade. NPR's Wade Goodwyn, we appreciate it, thanks.

GOODWYN: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: All right, some other news now. Vice President Pence is on the move right now.

MARTIN: He was in Egypt and Jordan over the weekend. And this morning, the vice president is in Jerusalem. Pence met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will not, however, be meeting with any Palestinians on this trip. They were furious over President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, so they've refused to meet with Pence while he's in the region. So the question now, what exactly can Pence achieve on this trip?

GREENE: And let's ask NPR's Daniel Estrin, who is in Jerusalem. Hey, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So how is this big decision from President Trump about Jerusalem affecting this visit?

ESTRIN: Well, White House officials at first weren't expecting the Jerusalem issue to be the centerpiece of the vice president's discussions on this trip, but it has been. Jerusalem's been front and center. The king of Jordan called on the U.S. to rebuild trust and confidence in the possibility of peace. And so Pence on this trip has tried to explain the rationale behind the Jerusalem declaration. He has said by recognizing what he called the obvious, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, that creates an opportunity to, quote, "move on," to move on to issues that need to be negotiated at the peace table.

The Palestinians are not at all interested in moving on. They have claims in Jerusalem as well. The Palestinian leaders now are refusing any U.S.-led peace process and refusing to meet with Pence.

GREENE: Ok, so given that the Palestinians are refusing to meet with him, Israeli leaders are, how has this trip felt and how has it played out so far?

ESTRIN: Well, today in Jerusalem, Pence was greeted by an Israeli honor guard that played the American and Israeli national anthems. Pence was grinning the whole time. An evangelical organization in Jerusalem has put up signs next to Pence's hotel that say, you are a true friend of Zion. Pence is an ardent supporter of Israel. He has been for a long time. He's a devout Christian. He was one of the biggest advocates pushing Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. So he feels very welcome here.

GREENE: And he's going to be giving a speech at the Israeli parliament today. What can we expect?

ESTRIN: Well, he has said that he is going to stand before the Israeli Parliament and say that if both Israelis and Palestinians agree, the Trump administration will support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meaning creating an independent Palestinian state next to Israel. Now that's a vision that many in the Israeli government today actually reject. So we'll see how lawmakers react. Arab lawmakers are boycotting Pence's speech.

GREENE: OK, NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem covering a visit by Vice President Pence to Jerusalem. We appreciate it.

ESTRIN: No problem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.