By Michael C. Bender
WASHINGTON -- The partial government shutdown, now three weeks long, would become the longest in history Saturday. And it may extend for weeks to come.
President Trump's aides have started preparations for the State of the Union speech, discussing how to use the Jan. 29 address if the shutdown remains in place, White House officials said.
Meanwhile, the White House Office of Management and Budget is preparing for the shutdown to continue through end of February, according to White House officials who have been briefed on the plans. Mr. Trump on Thursday canceled his trip later this month to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, citing the border-security and shutdown negotiations.
"We are continuing to look at all options on the table," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "We would like to get the government open immediately."
Inside the White House, some aides have discussed using their captive audience for the State of the Union to have the president admonish lawmakers for a shutdown that at that point would be on its 39th day, and to reprimand them by saying they haven't given enough attention to what the administration views as an immigration crisis along the southern border. It was unclear whether Mr. Trump has been briefed on these discussions.
Meanwhile, White House aides were preparing for the shutdown to continue into the foreseeable future, as some officials argue that many of the political pressure points that would motivate leaders to find a solution have been ameliorated.
Enough temporary funding is available for millions of Americans to continue to receive food stamps through February, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said. The Internal Revenue Service will pay tax refunds even though the agency is subject to the shutdown, after the Trump administration reversed a longstanding policy.
An estimated 800,000 federal workers are going without paychecks, but some White House officials said privately that is unlikely to generate outrage among most Americans. "What is the real impetus to make a deal from either side?" one White House official said. "It's not like the president is going to notice that the White House is empty."
A senior administration official said that there was "no date in mind" to end the shutdown. "We are just trying to mitigate the impact and make this as painless as possible for the American people long enough to bring the Democrats back to the table," the senior official said.
The GOP-controlled Senate adjourned around 1 p.m Friday for the weekend. The White House has no meetings scheduled with congressional leaders, and the president is considering a go-it-alone approach that would result in him declaring a national emergency along the southern border, which may let him pay for the wall without approval from Congress.
That path would face almost certain legal challenges, and has raised some concerns even within the White House. Administration officials are also considering other potential options for the president to act on his own, according to people familiar with those discussions, including asking the Army Corps of Engineers to examine potentially diverting money from other projects to pay for the border wall.
Mr. Trump, while saying he would still seek a compromise, views the emergency move as the most efficient way to end the shutdown, according to people familiar with his thinking. He continued to suggest that path with a Twitter post Friday that referred to the immigration issues as a "humanitarian crisis at our southern border. "
"I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!" he wrote.
Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 11, 2019 14:56 ET (19:56 GMT)
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