Lawmakers return to Washington with slim hopes of ending the government shutdown

Trump and his wall prototypes
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Senate will gavel into session Thursday afternoon but few senators are expected to attend and House members have been told there will be no votes until at least Friday on reopening the federal government, now six days into the third and final partial shutdown of 2018. Nine Cabinet-level departments and numerous agencies closed Saturday after President Trump made clear he wouldn't sign a spending bill without $5 billion for a border wall. About 420,000 federal workers are currently working without pay and 380,000 have been furloughed. Many national parks are shuttered.

Democrats are offering $1.3 billion for border security and fence maintenance, and negotiations are continuing, everything from the price tag to what constitutes a "wall" up for debate. On Wednesday, Trump reiterated he will do "whatever it takes" to get his wall. House Democrats say leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will introduce the stopgap spending measure the Senate approved, with no wall funding, on Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House; the Senate would have to pass it again. It's unclear Trump would sign it. "If Democrats believe that this president is going to yield on this particular issue, they are misreading him," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of the lawmakers who helped convince Trump to opt for the shutdown, told CNN on Wednesday.

Democrats argue that the wall is a wasteful and ineffective political gimmick, and Trump is an untrustworthy negotiating partner. "He says, 'We're going to build a wall with cement, and Mexico's going to pay for it,' while he's already backed off of the cement," Pelosi told USA Today. "Now he's down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something. I'm not sure where he is."

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Lawmakers are grumpy. "This is my fifth shutdown, I'm beyond frustrated," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told reporters Monday. "LBJ said, 'Sometimes you just have to hunker down like a jackass in a hailstorm and just take it.' So that's where we are."

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