Schumer: It's Christmas Eve, and Trump is plunging the country into chaos

Outside the White House, Washington's National Christmas Tree became a forlorn symbol of the dysfunction when the National Park Service - one of the government bodies hit by the funding shutdown - briefly turned off the lights.

With Congress out of town and the debate over Trump's demand for a US$5 billion US-Mexico border wall at an impasse, the president sat holed up, tweeting no less than 10 times by early afternoon to lash out at opponents and reject responsibility for a plummeting stock market. But they didn't rule out action if a deal were struck.

Democrats said they are open to other proposals that don't include the wall, which Schumer said is too costly and unpopular.

On Wednesday, the Senate easily passed a temporary spending measure without any money for the border wall after getting signals from the White House that Trump wouldn't press the issue and trigger a shutdown.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said a counteroffer was presented over the weekend to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of NY. "Democrats are wrong to act like children, to say you can't get a penny more".

Some national parks have shuttered completely, but New York´s governor provided funding to keep the Statue of Liberty open.

Shelby ate lunch at the White House on Saturday, with rightwingers including House Freedom Caucus chiefs Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Absent from the guest list were GOP leaders. Trump had pledged that Mexico would pay for the wall; Mexico has refused.

The budget stand-off could drag on into January, when the new Congress is seated, including a House controlled by Democrats.

Wednesday is the first day taxpayers could begin to feel the effects of a shutdown, Mulvaney said.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, countered: "If Director Mulvaney says the Trump Shutdown will last into the New Year, believe him, because it's their shutdown".

Mulvaney sent agency heads a memorandum telling them to "execute plans for an orderly shutdown" - though he wrote that administration officials are "hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration".

Schumer and Pelosi also said that Team Trump can't get their story straight on what the president will accept to end the shutdown.

Building the wall was one of Trump's most frequently repeated campaign promises but Democrats are vehemently opposed to it.

Nine cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies - including homeland security, transportation, interior, agriculture, state and justice - are affected by the shutdown.

Negotiations between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration over the president's demands for a border wall have so far not yielded an agreement, making it likely that the shutdown will continue until after Christmas.

Among those set to be furloughed: 52,000 staffers at the Internal Revenue Service, slowing analysis and collection of hundreds of thousands of tax returns and audits. A similar number were deemed essential - including Border Patrol officers, health inspectors and airport security workers - and are remaining on the job without pay. Also still functioning were the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.

The FAA released a statement saying that "air traffic control is fully operational and there is no impact to safety or FAA oversight for travelers".

But while trying to pin the blame on Democrats, Mulvaney, speaking on "Fox News Sunday", acknowledged that Trump´s adamance on the wall played a role. Merkley also appeared on ABC.

  • Rogelio Becker