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Without Border Wall Funding, Government Shutdown Expected

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time is running out. A partial government shutdown is just a few hours away and looking increasingly likely. Last night, the House passed a funding bill including $5 billion for a border wall and sent that bill over to the Senate.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That meant senators had to scramble back to Washington to vote, even though it's pretty clear the votes are not there to pass the House measure. It's not clear what happens next or how long the shutdown could last. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is on Capitol Hill now and joins me to tell us exactly how everything will unfold, right, Scott?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: (Laughter) That's exactly what we're going to do.

CHANG: (Laughter) So what is going on right now?

DETROW: At this moment, Vice President Mike Pence, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Jared Kushner are here at the Capitol meeting with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in his office. As that happens, the Senate is in the middle of a very, very, very, very, very long vote. It's been going on for hours.

CHANG: That sounds scintillating.

DETROW: (Laughter) And here's what's going on. Most senators were back in their home states when the House amended that sending - spending bill and sent it back. So they had to scramble back to Washington. And not everyone is here yet, so because of that, this procedural vote has been happening for hours.

CHANG: (Laughter).

DETROW: And it doesn't look like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes he needs to get it passed.

CHANG: So if this procedural vote is in danger, that doesn't sound like there's any chance the Senate's going to pass a bill containing (laughter) border wall money. So what happens next?

DETROW: Yeah, you need 60 votes to move forward on a bill like that.

CHANG: Right.

DETROW: And those votes aren't there. So the White House is saying, well, a shutdown's likely. Here's what President Trump said earlier today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's possible that we'll have a shutdown. I would say the chances are probably very good because I don't think Democrats care so much about maybe this issue, but this is a very big issue.

DETROW: And Democrats are pointing out that, hey, President Trump has been the one seemingly pushing for a confrontation. Schumer used a speech today to remind everyone of that meeting that he and Nancy Pelosi had with the president last week at the White House where Trump did just that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: President Trump called for a shutdown no less than 25 times. In our meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump said, quote, "if we don't get what we want, I, President Trump, will shut down the government. I am proud to shut down - shut it down," said President Trump.

CHANG: OK. So if there is a shutdown - it looks like there will be - do we have any sense of how long it's going to last?

DETROW: Well, this is the point where I fail you on that promise at the beginning of the segment.

CHANG: (Laughter).

DETROW: We just have no idea what's going to happen next. And that's because the holidays are coming up. The House and Senate were supposed to be done for the year, done for the session, not coming back.

So here's what we don't know. We don't know whether lawmakers work over the holidays to resolve this or it - or if it just becomes political trench warfare, and everyone waits. And now President Trump is expected to stay in Washington instead of heading to Florida for Christmas.

Democrats take control of the House in just a matter of weeks. If the shutdown is still going on then, new Speaker Nancy Pelosi could hold a vote on a new funding bill without that wall money and send it to the Senate. They passed a measure without the wall money before. But if that happens, President Trump could still veto it.

So bottom line, no idea what happens next. And both parties see a shutdown as increasingly likely.

CHANG: Good to hear. (Laughter) That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Thanks so much, Scott.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.