It's beginning to look like a (very long) shutdown

President at the White House Christmas Party. (White House photo)

Mark Trahant

Updated: Senate Republican leader adjourns until December 27th

The Congress adjourned Friday without reaching a deal on federal spending, closing down parts of the federal government. The press likes to call this a "limited" closure because it's only 320,000 federal employees that are being furloughed (out of some 2 million workers). Another 400,000 workers are "excepted" and will be required to report for work without pay until a spending bill becomes law.

But that's little consolation to those who work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, Housing and Urban Development, or Commerce, the Internal Revenue Service, or the other federal agencies that are now operating without funding from Congress. (The Environmental Protection Agency says it can operate a few more days on existing funds.)

(Previous story: Clock is ticking for a holiday shutdown; BIA, IHS workers, contracts will be hit)

The Senate Friday barely passed a motion to proceed (the vote of Vice President Mike Pence was required to break a 47-to 47 tie) but there were not enough votes for a spending bill to pass with the $5 billion requested by the White House for a border wall (now called a steel slat barrier).

On Saturday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the Senate was adjourned until December 27th. But even then a vote would first need a solution that satisfies the president, the Democrats, and the Republicans in Congress. No proposal that does that has yet surfaced.

One possible solution would be for the Congress to pass another spending bill without the extra money for the border wall and force the president to veto the measure. Then Republicans would have to choose between a continued shutdown and defying the president with an override. It takes a two-thirds majority in both houses to override a veto.

Some 400,000 federal employees are still required to work without pay and another 320,000 are furloughed. The passed legislation ensuring workers receive back pay, but that bill must still be debated by the House.

The president blamed Democrats. "This is our only chance that we'll ever have, in our opinion, because of the world and the way it breaks out, to get great border security," Trump said Friday at the White House. He called it a "safety" issue. But Democrats countered that the spending bill already funds an increase of $1.6 billion for border security.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports