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Shutdown showdown: Democrats press to reopen government as Trump heads to border

President Trump declared a national emergency to fund his border wall. Here are some of the challenges that could crop up to block his declaration. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Democrats sought unsuccessfully Thursday to pass bills to reopen shuttered government agencies as President Trump headed to the U.S.-Mexico border in a bid to gain leverage in a stalemate over funding his long-promised border wall.

With a partial government shutdown now nearly three weeks old, Trump visited a Border Patrol station Thursday afternoon in McAllen, Tex., then headed to the Rio Grande for a briefing.

Before leaving the White House, Trump said that if he can’t cut a deal with Congress, he “probably” will declare a national emergency and direct the military to build a wall without congressional consent.

6:30 p.m.: Senate votes to ensure that federal workers get paid after shutdown

The Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would ensure federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens.

The bill, which was approved unanimously by voice vote, states that furloughed employees will be paid “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.”

It would need to pass the House and be signed by Trump in order to become law.

6:10 p.m.: Litigants line up to challenge Trump administration over border wall

The administration can expect a flood of court challenges if it proposes to build a wall without explicit congressional authorization. Indeed, a number of organizations are already preparing for litigation, just waiting to see what the president does.

“The use of emergency powers to build a wall is unlawful and we are prepared to sue as needed,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, which has helped obtain dozens of court orders blocking Trump administration immigration policies.

“There’s going to be a lot of lawsuits,” said Brian Segee, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are preparing” for possible litigation now, he said.

The Sierra Club is also a likely litigant. “To the extent it violates the law, which I think it will, we’re seriously thinking of suing,” said Pat Gallagher, legal director for the organization.

Both groups, and others, including the state of California, are embroiled in litigation challenging earlier decisions by the Department of Homeland Security to build barriers along the border.

Environmental organizations have historically had great success establishing standing to sue — convincing judges that their members face real potential harm from government actions in the form of lost recreational, aesthetic and cultural enjoyment due to changes in wildlife habitats and or cultural sites.

Individuals owning property along the route of a wall who stand to lose property or the use of property because of a wall are also probable litigants.

5:45 p.m.: Graham says it’s time for Trump to use emergency powers

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) issued a statement Thursday night calling for Trump to declare a national emergency and build the border wall.

“Speaker Pelosi’s refusal to negotiate on funding for a border wall/barrier — even if the government were to be reopened — virtually ends the congressional path to funding for a border wall/barrier. It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier,” Graham said in the statement.

The statement comes as the White House has begun laying the groundwork for an emergency declaration, including searching for unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, according to two people with knowledge of the preparations.

4:45 p.m.: House votes to reopen departments of Transportation, Agriculture; no path forward in Senate

The House passed measures early Thursday evening that would reopen the departments of Transportation and Agriculture and other federal agencies, legislation that Democrats are advancing as the partial shutdown drags on.

As with Wednesday’s vote on legislation that would reopen the Treasury Department, Thursday’s measures have no path forward in the Senate, as Trump has said he will not sign any bill reopening the government unless it includes taxpayer funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The first bill, which would fund the Department of Transporation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, passed the House on a 244-to-180 vote, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats in approving the measure.

The second bill, which funds the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies, received 10 crossover Republican votes; it passed on a 243-to-183 vote.

Notably, two former chairmen of the National Republican Congressional Committee — Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.) and Steve Stivers (Ohio) — were among the Republicans who defected on the transportation funding bill. Walden also voted "yes” on the Agriculture bill.

2:55 p.m.: Pence rules out deal that would protect ‘dreamers’

By mid-Thursday afternoon, Vice President Pence had ruled out any agreement that involved protections for “dreamers” brought to the country illegally as children.

“When we get the resources that we need to build a wall and secure our border, this is a president that also wants to . . . fix our broken immigration system. We believe the opportunity after the Supreme Court case will be the time to do that,” Pence said, referring to the high court’s expected ruling on the DACA program.

Deal-minded Senate Republicans had been shuttling between meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Pence on Thursday morning, batting around a proposal that would include Trump’s desired $5.7 billion in wall funding, a renewable, three-year status for DACA recipients and beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program, and fulfill the White House’s request for detention beds, immigration judges and other enforcement priorities, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

“I think there is some good discussion going on, and we’re looking for options and alternatives, and that’s an important part of the process right now,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said early Thursday afternoon.

But the GOP senators were much more interested in hashing out a process agreement that could pave the way forward for a potential deal to end the shutdown, the people said. That would include holding congressional hearings on immigration — most likely in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Graham — and potentially having Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testify. Under the process idea, the Senate would put forward the president’s immigration funding request for a committee and ultimately a floor vote, with the understanding that Trump’s plan would be subject to amendments.

Graham essentially said late Thursday afternoon that talks were over and that he saw “no way forward.”

“I have never been more depressed about moving forward than right now. I just don’t see a pathway forward,” Graham said.

2:45 p.m.: Trump maintains wall will be paid for by Mexico ‘many, many times over’

At the U.S. Border Patrol station where he attended a roundtable on immigration and border security, Trump continued to press the case for his border wall, which he maintained would be paid for by Mexico “many, many times over” through a new trade deal that has yet to be ratified by Congress.

“I didn’t mean, ‘Please write me a check,’ ” Trump said of his oft-made claim that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Even if approved by Congress, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal would not necessarily contribute more money to federal coffers, as countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits.

Trump also blamed Democrats for the continued partial government shutdown, pushing back against their criticism that the situation at the border was a crisis “manufactured” by the White House.

“It’s not. What is manufactured is the use of the word ‘manufactured,’ ” Trump said.

1:38 p.m.: Trump lands in McAllen with both U.S. senators from Texas

Air Force One has landed at the airport in McAllen, Tex. Trump was accompanied on the flight from Washington by Texas’s two Republican U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Also traveling with Trump on Thursday are several senior White House staffers, as well as the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

Trump was greeted by several state officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R).

Trump then climbed into his SUV but quickly stepped out to greet a crowd of supporters on the tarmac positioned behind bike racks.

The president autographed Trump caps, shook hands and posed for pictures. He said, repeatedly, “Thank you very much, everybody!” Some supporters could be heard yelling, “Thank you for supporting our border patrol” and “Keep it up!”

1:45 p.m.: McAllen theater welcomes Trump with ‘7th Safest City in America’ sign

A historic theater in McAllen is welcoming Trump with a sign drawing attention to the city’s ranking as one of the country’s safest places to live.

“Welcome to McAllen, 7th Safest City in America,” reads the sign, posted on the marquee of the Cine El Rey Theatre, according to local TV station News 4 San Antonio.

In a 2015 study by financial services firm SmartAsset examining the 200 largest cities in the country, McAllen was ranked the seventh safest.

“The McAllen crime rate is the lowest in 24 years,” McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said in a statement at the time. “We thank our citizens, our city leadership and the outstanding men and women of the McAllen Police Department.”

1:14 p.m.: Trump cancels plans for economic forum in Switzerland

Trump said Thursday that he is scrapping his plans to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month because of the partial government shutdown.

He made the announcement via Twitter as Air Force Once was still en route to Texas.

“Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum,” Trump wrote. “My warmest regards and apologies to the @WEF!”

Earlier Thursday, Trump told reporters at the White House that he intended to attend but that he would cancel his plans if the shutdown continued.

The gathering in the ritzy Swiss ski resort starts Jan. 22.

It was not immediately clear if other members of the Trump administration still plan to attend.

Those previously scheduled to join Trump include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, presidential adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump, and adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

12:45 p.m.: Demonstrations in Washington and McAllen underway

Furloughed federal workers, contractors and union representatives were marching toward the White House Thursday to demand an end to the partial government shutdown, while both pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators lined the streets in McAllen, Tex., in advance of the president’s arrival.

According to local television reports, the number of Trump supporters and protesters in McAllen both numbered in the hundreds.

12:30 p.m.: Senators seek back pay for contractors

A group of 34 U.S. senators is urging federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay for low- and middle-income employees affected by the government shutdown, now in its 20th day.

In a letter released Thursday by the office of Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the lawmakers asked federal agencies to work with government contractors to find ways to provide back pay for those engaged in low-income jobs such as in food service, security and custodial work. They are separately pushing legislation that would provide ways for federal contractors to be reimbursed on a more permanent basis for future shutdowns.

“In the past these lower-wage contract workers have been overlooked, and they are also innocent victims of a shutdown they had nothing to do with,” Van Hollen said. “We believe the government should remedy this.”

It is unclear whether agencies will have the final say when it comes to providing back pay for contractors. Some government contractors serving the Department of Homeland Security, United States Agency for International Development, and the Agriculture Department, among others, have been ordered to stop work on certain projects deemed nonessential.

The 34 senators, all Democrats, argued that agencies also bear some responsibility when contracted employees don’t get their paychecks, making the case that agencies generally do have the authority to negotiate back pay for contracted employees.

11:45 a.m.: With Trump en route to Texas, Pence goes to the Hill

Vice President Pence is on Capitol Hill to meet with Republican senators who have talked in a long-shot bid, which includes other immigration provisions, to end the shutdown.

“Just arrived at Capitol to talk w/ members of Congress about the humanitarian & security crisis at our southern border,” Pence said in a tweet. “@POTUS made clear he will stand firm to achieve the priorities of the American people to build a wall & add personnel, resources, & reforms to stem the crisis.”

11:15 a.m.: Pelosi questions Trump’s motives, expresses frustration with Senate Republicans

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she thinks Trump “loves the distraction” that the partial government shutdown has created.

“I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems,” Pelosi said during a news conference in which she continued to insist that Trump’s demand for wall funding “is not the best way to protect our borders.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave a laundry list of services harmed by the ongoing government shutdown during a news conference on Jan. 10. (Video: Reuters)

Pelosi also questioned whether Trump is truly confident that a border wall makes sense.

“If you have confidence in your own position, why do you say, ‘I have to shut down government to get people to heed what I’m saying?’ ”

“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants the debate on the wall,” she added.

Pelosi said the House would continue to vote on bills to reopen shuttered agencies even though Republican leaders in the Senate have said they won’t take them up since Trump won’t sign them.

Voicing frustration with Republican leadership, Pelosi asked: “Do you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?”

10:45 a.m.: McConnell rebuffs effort by Democrats to pass spending bills

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rebuffed efforts by Democrats on Thursday to pass spending bills that would reopen shuttered government agencies, including several that have nothing to do with border security.

After Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) sought consent to move forward with a bill, McConnell objected, calling the Democratic strategy “pointless, absolutely pointless.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Jan. 10 blocked a motion by Senate Democrats to vote on House-passed bills to end the partial government shutdown. (Video: The Washington Post)

“This will not produce a result,” McConnell said. “It won’t solve the problem because the president has made clear he won’t sign them.”

Speaking on the floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) unsuccessfully pleaded with McConnell to take up the legislation.

“Let’s separate our disagreements over border security from the government shutdown, reopen all the government agencies unrelated to border security, and let’s continue to work to resolve our differences,” Schumer said. “Do not hold all of these workers as hostages, as pawns, as leverage.”

Van Hollen (D-Md.) warned his Republican colleagues of the consequences of not acting by Friday.

“I will tell you your phones will all be ringing off the hook tomorrow when federal employees miss that first paycheck,” Van Hollen said.

10 a.m.: Trump says he’ll cancel Davos trip if shutdown is unresolved

Trump said Thursday that he would scrap his plans to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month if the partial government shutdown is not resolved.

“I intended to go and speak in front of the international community in Davos,” he told reporters at the White House before departing for Texas. “That’s still on, but if the shutdown continues — it’s a little while from now — but if the shutdown continues, I won’t go.”

The gathering in the ritzy Swiss ski resort will start Jan. 22.

Among those scheduled to join Trump in Davos are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, presidential adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump, and adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, among other top staffers.

9:37 a.m.: Trump says he’ll ‘probably’ declare a national emergency if deal isn’t reached on wall

Trump said Thursday that he “probably” will declare a national emergency if he can’t strike a deal with Congress on border wall funding.

Such a declaration would allow Trump to direct the military to construct a wall without congressional consent — a move Democrats have vowed to fight in court.

President Trump on Jan. 9 said he could use his emergency powers to build the southern border wall if he "can't make a deal with people who are unreasonable." (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“I have the option,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House en route to Texas. “If this doesn’t work out, I probably will do it, maybe definitely.”

Trump said that he is not ready yet to declare an emergency and that he would still prefer to work with Congress. He added that he is willing to compromise.

“I would like to do the deal through Congress,” he said. “It makes sense to do the deal through Congress . . . It would be nice if we can make a deal, but dealing with these people is ridiculous.”

At another point, he said, “I find China frankly in many ways is more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy,” a reference to Schumer and Pelosi.

8:55 a.m.: Another GOP lawmaker speaks out against national emergency declaration

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Thursday that “it’s not the best use of presidential power” for Trump to declare a national emergency and direct the military to build a wall without congressional consent.

During an appearance on MSNBC, Cole said doing so would amount to “punting” the issue to the courts. Democrats have vowed a legal fight with Trump if he invokes emergency powers, which he has said remains an option if he can’t strike a deal with Congress.

“I’d rather get to a deal,” Cole said, adding: “I do think others agree with me.”

Other lawmakers who’ve expressed reservations about an emergency declaration include Rep. Mac Thornberry (Tex.), the ranking Republican in the House Armed Services Committee.

8:43 a.m.: Trump asserts great GOP unity on wall plans

Trump asserted in a tweet Thursday that Republicans remain united in support of his call for border wall funding and said Democrats are seeking to deny him a win.

He also took aim at what he called the “Fake News Media,” accusing it of “working in overdrive” to make it look like Republicans are not united behind him.

On Wednesday night, eight Republicans broke ranks as the House passed a bill that would reopen the Treasury Department and ensure that the Internal Revenue Service would remain funded without providing money for a border wall.

Several Republicans have also expressed opposition to Trump invoking emergency powers to direct the military to build the wall without congressional consent. The president has said he is considering such a declaration.

“There is GREAT unity with the Republicans in the House and Senate, despite the Fake News Media working in overdrive to make the story look otherwise. The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give ‘Trump’ another one of many wins!” the president wrote.

Minutes later, he posted three more tweets, including one in which he quoted Steve Doocy, a host on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” saying Trump’s supporters don’t want him “to cave.”

“I won’t!” Trump wrote.

8:24 a.m.: Trump disputes he slammed a table in White House meeting

As he prepared to leave for Texas, Trump went on Twitter on Thursday to dispute that he had slammed a table during a contentious meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday.

That account was provided to reporters by Schumer after the afternoon meeting at the White House.

Trump walks out of shutdown negotiations after Democrats reject wall money, calls meeting ‘total waste of time’

“Cryin Chuck told his favorite lie when he used his standard sound bite that I ‘slammed the table & walked out of the room. He had a temper tantrum,’ ” Trump wrote in the tweet. “Because I knew he would say that, and after Nancy said no to proper Border Security, I politely said bye-bye and left, no slamming!”

8:18 a.m.: Schumer says Democrats will demand votes on House-passed bills to reopen government

Schumer said that Democrats would take to the Senate floor Thursday morning to demand that McConnell allow votes on House-passed bills to reopen portions of the federal government.

“If Leader McConnell or Republicans object, thousands of federal workers — and the families who rely on them — will go without a paycheck,” Schumer said in a tweet.

8 a.m.: Federal employees plan rally to end the shutdown

While Trump is en route to Texas, federal workers are planning a rally in Washington to call on Congress to end the partial government shutdown.

The event, organized by union leaders, is set for noon at the AFL-CIO headquarters and will feature several lawmakers from the Washington area, including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

The event is being billed as a “Rally to End the Trump Shutdown.”

7:30 a.m.: Castro pledges Democrats will challenge Trump ‘every way we can’ if he declares a national emergency

Ahead of Trump’s trip to Texas on Thursday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) pledged that Democrats would challenge Trump “every way we can” if he declares a national emergency and directs the military to build a border wall without congressional consent.

“We will challenge him in every way we can,” Castro said during an appearance on CNN. “We’ll challenge him here in Congress. We’ll challenge him in the courts. We’ll challenge him on the streets in protests. We’ll do everything that we can to push back on what the president does if he does declare a national emergency.”

Trump said Wednesday that his “threshold” for such a declaration is whether he and Congress are able to strike a deal on wall funding.

Castro said that while he agrees with Trump that there is a humanitarian crisis at the border, it does not amount to a national emergency.

“I think what he’ll find today, and what locals will tell him on the border — even conservatives — is there isn’t a national security crisis,” Castro said. “These people, unlike what the president says, are not coming to harm Americans. They’re coming because they’re fleeing very violent and very desperate situations in their home countries.”

While House Democrats are fiercely opposing Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding, Castro said they are open to compromise on other border security measures.

“There’s a distinction to be made between a border wall and more border security, and Democrats very much are willing to compromise on more border security,” he said. “What we’ve been against, and what most Americans and most Texans are against, is a border wall. We want, smart, effective border security, not a 17th-century solution to the challenges we face now at the border.”

6 a.m.: Trump faces skepticism on wall from those most affected

As Trump heads to Texas to continue making his case for a wall along the Mexican border, he is facing mounting skepticism from those who would be affected the most.

Nearly every state and federal official who represents a district along the border is opposed to his plan, The Washington Post’s Matt Viser reports.

Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, this week said he opposes an emergency declaration to build the wall. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), whose district includes 820 miles along the border, has repeatedly spoken out and voted against it. Dennis Nixon, a bank executive from Laredo who was a top Trump donor, has published a lengthy rebuttal to Trump’s desire for a wall.

Read more here.

5 a.m.: Trump takes his frustrations out on the news media

At the end of a chaotic day punctuated by a failed meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders intended to end the partial government shutdown, the president went on Twitter late Wednesday night to air his well-worn grievances about a familiar adversary — the news media.

In tweets and retweets, Trump once again voiced disdain for the “Mainstream Media,” specifically naming NBC and MSNBC as the source of his ire, while also touting support for himself and his wall ahead of a visit to the southern border Thursday.

Read more from The Post’s Allyson Chiu here.

Fred Barbash, Mike DeBonis, Aaron Gregg, Seung Min Kim, Philip Rucker, Erica Werner and Paul Kane contributed to this report.