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Shutdown fight hits urgent new stage as Trump considers emergency powers to build his wall

Key Points
  • The partial government shutdown becomes the second longest in history — its 18th day — with little signs of progress.
  • The closure of nine agencies has added new urgency to the negotiations, though the White House has largely doubled down on its demands for border wall funding.
  • President Trump is expected to make his case to the public on Tuesday evening in a prime-time television address.
President Donald Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2017.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

The partial government shutdown tied the second longest in history on Tuesday — its 18th day — with little signs of progress.

The continued closure of nine agencies added a new sense of urgency to the situation as negotiations seem to have broken down. The White House has largely doubled down on its demands for border wall funding, and Democrats have refused to include any money for it.

President Donald Trump is expected to make his case to the public on Tuesday evening in a prime-time television address. The address comes before a planned presidential trip to the southern border Thursday.

In a tweet Monday, the president said he would outline the "Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border." The major networks agreed to carry the president's address, prompting Democratic leadership to demand equal time for a response. The rebuttal will be delivered by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from the U.S. Capitol.

National emergency

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Tax refunds will be issued despite government shutdown

It is possible that the president will declare a national emergency during the address that will circumvent Congress and trigger laws that could allow him to build the wall using already-appropriated military funding. Legal scholars have said that any such attempt is likely to get held up in the courts.

Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that the president is examining the possibility. On Friday, the president declared from the White House Rose Garden that he "could do it if I wanted" but stated his preference for a "negotiated" solution.

Yet Pelosi and Schumer remain adamant that they will not support any bill that contains wall funding.

In a joint statement released on Monday, the two Democrats said they expected the president's television address to be "full of malice and misinformation."

That statement followed a weekend of bipartisan meetings with Pence, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that yielded no progress.

A Democratic aide told CNBC that the administration during a meeting with Democratic staff "doubled down on their partisan proposal" and has continued to press for bills that cannot pass in Congress.

Worries about GOP resolve

House Speaker-delegate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raises the gavel after being elected as House Speaker as the U.S. House of Representatives meets for the start of the 116th Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2019.
Leah Millis | Reuters

Pence and Nielsen are expected to attempt to rally Republicans around the president's position on Tuesday, Politico reported.

The outlet cited a GOP aide who said the party leadership counts as many as 25 members who are likely to vote with Democrats on a House bill Wednesday that would return funding to the IRS and other agencies.

New strategy

In the Senate, some Democrats representing large numbers of government workers have floated a new strategy. Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen proposed refusing to vote on any new Senate bill that does not reopen the government.

Schumer has told his caucus that he will oppose proceeding to a vote on the first bill of the new Congress until the chamber takes up House bills that will reopen the government, CNN reported.

The political posturing comes as the administration wrestles with how to ameliorate the affects of the shutdown on millions of Americans who work for the government or rely on its services.

Since the start of the shutdown on Dec. 22, approximately 800,000 government workers have been out of work or working without pay. The unintended effects include a buildup of trash in the nation's national parks and long lines at airports, where security workers are increasingly calling out sick.

The White House on Monday sought to temporarily remedy some of the effects that the closure, announcing that the IRS would issue refunds despite its lapsed funding, a break with previous administrations.

The acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, told reporters that key government services such as resuming trash pickup at national parks and the sale of flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program would continue.

The shutdown ties the one that started Sept. 30, 1978, and also lasted 18 days. The longest federal shutdown started Dec. 16, 1995, and lasted 21 days in a standoff between then President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich over domestic spending cuts. Friday would be the 21st day of the current shutdown.

— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.