WASHINGTON: The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would summon tens of thousands of federal employees back to work without pay to get the government running amid a partial shutdown well into its third week, as the White House and increasingly agitated lawmakers on Capitol Hill cast about for a way to end the stalemate.
On a day of inertia and theatrics in Washington, the partisan disconnect fueling the deadlock was on full — sometimes absurd — display. House Democrats spurned an invitation by President Trump to a bipartisan lunch at the White House, drawing howls of outrage from Trump’s team, while Democrats dismissed the steak-and-potatoes meal as little more than a photo opportunity. A group of House Democratic freshmen marched across the Capitol — with reporters in tow — to publicly confront Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, with demands to end the impasse. But McConnell was not in his office, so they left a note.
In between the choreographed scenes of non-negotiation, Republicans and Democrats toiled privately to find a solution that Trump would accept. The talks were expected to continue Wednesday, after the President issued yet another invitation to a group of centrists from both parties, the Problem Solvers Caucus, who were scheduled to attend a meeting with him in the Situation Room.
Senior administration officials, in the latest indication said that they do not expect the partial shutdown to end anytime soon, made contingency plans to call back workers without pay. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was bringing thousands of furloughed inspectors and other employees back to work, while the Internal Revenue Service released a plan to have 46,000 of its 80,000 employees on the job for tax-filing season, up from about 10,000.
The Interior Department is bringing back at least 40 federal employees tasked to work on a plan to sell oil and gas drilling leases off the entire United States coastline.
In Washington, the deadlock showed no sign of subsiding. In the House, some freshman Democrats who won in districts carried by Trump in 2016 showed some signed of concern. They met on Tuesday to talk about whether — and how hard — to push their leaders to negotiate with the White House.