Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Week In Politics: A Holiday Shutdown


We're going to turn now to NPR's Tamara Keith to talk about the third-time-this-year partial government shutdown. President Trump put out a video on Twitter.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to have a shutdown. There's nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes. Call it a Democrat shutdown. Call it whatever you want. But we need their help to get this approved. So, Democrats, we have a wonderful list of things that we need to keep our country safe.

SIMON: NPR's Tamara Keith, as I mentioned, joins us. Tam, I'm gathering that's not what the Democrats call it.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: No. They would be calling it the Trump shutdown and a temper tantrum. And they have a very powerful surrogate helping them make their case. That would be none other than President Trump himself, who, just last week in the Oval Office, with cameras rolling, told Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that he would gladly shut the government down.


TRUMP: I will shut down the government.


TRUMP: Absolutely.

SCHUMER: Fair enough.

TRUMP: And I...

SCHUMER: We disagree.

TRUMP: ...Am proud. And I'll tell...

SCHUMER: We disagree.

TRUMP: ...You what - I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.

KEITH: Well, he's blaming him now. And since the president said that, some things have changed. First, the Senate easily passed a temporary measure to keep the government open. The president was, in theory, on board. And then, all of a sudden, it crumbled, and the president said he wouldn't sign it.

The House then passed, with Republican votes alone, a bill that would spend about $5 billion on border security and the wall. But that can't pass the Senate because Democrats are a hard no on the border wall. So last night, they hit an impasse, and the government is partially shut down.

SIMON: Are negotiations happening?

KEITH: They are underway among congressional leaders and the White House. The White House team includes the budget director, Jared Kushner, the vice president, the legislative affairs director, Shahira Knight.

I asked Press Secretary Sarah Sanders whether the president is willing to accept less than that $5 billion - whether it all has to be for the wall or whether it could be for border security and other things - and all she would say is, we are continuing to negotiate to get border security funding. She didn't specifically say wall.

But as for how this might end or when it might end, we don't know. All we know is that members of Congress have been told they will get 24 hours' notice to return for votes, so it will not end today.

SIMON: Seems to be stuck between a wall and billions of dollars. Is there any way out of this?

KEITH: I wish I knew exactly how they'd get out of it. But I think, in part, it'll come down to the definition of two things - border and - border security and the wall. And, you know, President Trump is hung up on the wall. His supporters are hung up on the wall. They chanted, build the wall. Build the wall. They didn't chant, build border security systems with additional manpower and electronic surveillance.

SIMON: That's cumbersome. But go ahead. Yeah.

KEITH: Yeah. It doesn't have the same ring to it. But last night, President Trump, in that Twitter video, started talking about the wall in a different way.


TRUMP: The only thing that's going to stop that is great border security with a wall or a slat fence or whatever you want to call it. But we need a great barrier. And if we don't have it, it's never going to work.

KEITH: So maybe steel slat barrier is the new wall.

SIMON: Tamara Keith, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.