US government shuts down after spending bill falters in Senate

Washington:  The US government began shutting down on Saturday for the first time in more than four years after Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating.

The shutdown, which comes on the first anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration, set off a new round of partisan disagreements and posed risks for both parties, the New York Times reported. 

This is the first modern government shutdown with Congress and the White House controlled by the same party and it came after a fruitless last-minute negotiating session at the White House between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader.

Trump's White House however immediately blamed Democrats for the shutdown.

"Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children and our country's ability to serve all Americans," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Friday moments before midnight. 

Democrats are demanding a budget deal should include protections for young immigrants known as "Dreamers" brought to US as children, yet Republicans have shown no signs of including a "Dreamers" protection in the bill.

"We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," Sanders said.

Trump and his representatives had been labelling the event the "Schumer shutdown" after Schumer, but the New York Democrat was quick to call it "the Trump shutdown".

"It's almost as if you were rooting for a shutdown," Schumer said from the Senate floor. "And now we will have one. And the blame should crash entirely on President Trump's shoulders," he added. 

Sixty votes were needed to advance the bill to fund the government until February 16. Republicans only control 51 seats, so GOP leaders needed Democratic votes to cross that threshold. It failed 50-49.

The budget proposal presented by the Republicans on Friday night got more votes in favour (50) than against (48), but they were insufficient to approve funds. Four Republicans voted against the bill while five Democrats broke rank to support it.

Earlier on Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted 230-197 to extend funding until February. 

Officials said that now over one million active-duty military personnel will serve with no lapse, but could not be paid until the shutdown ends. 

Agencies like the Energy Department that have funding that is not subject to annual appropriations can use that money to stay open, the officials said. 

Entitlements such as Social Security that are automatically funded can continue without disruption.

Officials said Trump may travel on Air Force One to carry out his constitutional responsibilities, including a planned trip next week to Davos, Switzerland -- although it was unclear whether trips to Mar-a-Lago -- his exclusive club in Florida would fall into that category.

Trump cancelled his plans to travel to his resort due to the crisis, a White House official said.

On Saturday, the President wrote on Twitter: "Not looking good for our great military or safety and security on the very dangerous southern border. Dems want a shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the tax cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy."

The last US shutdown was in 2013 during the Barrack Obama administration. It lasted for 16 days when many federal employees were forced to take leave of absence.

Source: IANS