Donald Trump cancels Florida trip as looming government shutdown triggers blame game

Donald Trump has cancelled his trip to Florida in an attempt to help avoid a government shutdown as Republicans piled pressure on their political opponents. 

The president was due to fly to his Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday afternoon but will now stay in Washington as the hours tick down to a government funding deadline. 

If Democrats do not vote through a month-long extension by the end of the day then much of federal government will grind to a halt. 

A fierce blame game erupted in the American capital as political rivals pointed the finger at each other over who was at fault for the stand-off.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, used a speech to accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic by refusing to vote for a funding extension. 

An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DCCredit:
Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg

“The American people, the citizens who actually elected us, will be watching," he said. 

"They will see which senators make the patriotic decision, stand up for the American people and vote to continue government funding."

He claimed Democrats would effectively “shove aside veterans, military families and vulnerable children to hold the entire country hostage” if they voted against a funding extension. 

The White House called an unexpected press conference on Friday morning that saw two senior administration figures take the fight to the Democrats. 

Marco Short, the White House director for legislative affairs, accused the Democrats of hypocrisy given the fury they expressed when Republicans forced a government shutdown in 2013. 

Mick Mulvaney, director of the office of management and budget, said the Democrats were “opposing a bill that they don’t oppose” in an attempt to win further concessions. 

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the SenateCredit:
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

A government shutdown, which comes when Congress fails to agree spending for departments, sees all but essential government services close.  It last happened under Barack Obama five years ago and lasted 16 days. 

A stand-off over immigration is at the heart of the current row.

Democrats want Mr Trump to extend protections for the so-called “dreamer” migrants who came to America illegally as children. 

Republicans want money for a Mexican border wall, the end of the diversity ‘lottery’ visa scheme and moves to curb chain migration, when a migrant’s family members follow after a move. 

A measure to push the midnight Friday deadline back 30 days was passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday but has not yet been voted on in the Senate. 

Sixty votes are needed to pass budget measures in the Senate. The Republicans have only 51 seats – meaning they need Democrat support. 

The Republicans are attempting to strong-arm Democrats into backing the funding extension by warning that failing to do so will cause upheaval and hit military spending. 

They have also included a six-year extension to the Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP] used by nine million youngsters, which Democrats have been demanding. 

However some Democrats are reluctant to sign off a deal because Mr Trump has failed to agree to protect“dreamer” migrants.

They see their votes on funding as a key political capital that should not be traded away for too low a price. 

Some analysts have also noted that for Democratic presidential hopefuls there could be political interest in holding out in order to appeal to their support base, which is firmly anti-Trump.

Republicans have dubbed the potential funding cut-off the “Schumer shutdown” after Chuck Schumer, the most senior Democrat in the Senate. 

Mr Schumer in turn has pointed out that Mr Trump once said that America could use “a good shutdown”.  Some Democrats have dubbed it the "Trump shutdown". 

Mike Pence, the vice president, will still travel to the Middle East on Friday night regardless of a government shutdown, his office has said. 

Some 48 per cent of voters blame Mr Trump and the Republican Party for the impending shutdown, according to an ABC News/ Washington Post poll. Just 28 per cent blame the Democrats. 

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