Shutdown pressure on President Donald Trump mounted Wednesday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on him to delay his State of the Union address and his own economists acknowledged the prolonged standoff was having a greater economic drag than previously thought.
In a letter to Trump, Pelosi cited security concerns, noting that both Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security are affected by the partial government shutdown, now it its fourth week. She added that unless the government reopens this week, they should find another date or Trump should deliver the address in writing.
The White House did not immediately respond to the high-stakes move on the 26th day of the shutdown, as Trump and Democrats are at an impasse over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Democrats say they will discuss border security once the government has reopened, but Pelosi is refusing money for the wall they view as ineffective and immoral.
With no breakthrough in sight, the White House planned further meetings with rank-and-file lawmakers Wednesday, though few saw those sessions as likely to budge either side. Administration officials sought to project confidence, even as Trump’s economists indicated the shutdown was having a greater impact than previously predicted.
In a call with reporters, White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Kevin Hassett said Tuesday the shutdown is slowing economic growth more than predicted.
An economic shift could rattle Trump, who has tied his political fortunes to the stock market and has repeatedly stressed economic gains as evidence that his tax-cut package and deregulation efforts are succeeding. Economic optimism had already cooled somewhat as Trump’s trade fight with China shook the markets.
Hassett said on the call that the White House is doubling its estimate of the strain on the economy of the shutdown, and now calculates that it is slowing growth by about 0.1 percentage points a week.
With the shutdown in its fourth week, that suggests the economy has lost nearly a half-percentage point of growth so far, though some of that occurred at the end of last year and some in the first quarter this year. Hassett said the economy should get a boost when the government re-opens.
Previous White House estimates of the economic impact did not fully take into account the impact on people who work for private companies that contract with the government to provide services, Hassett said.
While the hit to the overall economy so far remains slight, economists foresee real damage if the shutdown drags into February or beyond.
Roughly a million government employees and contractors aren’t being paid. Travel plans are compromised by shuttered federal parks and airport delays. Some Americans trying to start small businesses face delays in obtaining the required tax identification number from the IRS.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the economy remained strong.
“I know there has been some impact, but at the same time we’re focused on the long term economic principles the president has laid out,” she said.
The House and Senate have announced they will cancel an upcoming recess week if the shutdown continued, which seemed likely.
The president, on a conference call with supporters Tuesday, showed no signs of backing down.
“We’re going to stay out for a long time, if we have to,” Trump said. He also suggested the partial shutdown, which has clogged airport security lines and shuttered federal agencies, was going smoothly.
“People are very impressed with how well government is working with the circumstances that we’re under,” Trump said.
Behind the scenes, though, the administration — and its allies on Capitol Hill — are warily eyeing the next payday, hoping to reach a resolution before next week’s Tuesday deadline, when they’ll need to prepare the next round of paychecks for workers who have been seeing zeros on their pay slips.
“There is definitely a sense that there is a deadline approaching, which would be next Tuesday, to make sure that we’re able to solve this problem,” said Mercedes Schlapp, a White House spokeswoman.
Trump, who a week ago seemed intent on declaring a national emergency in order to build the wall, has turned his attention back to Congress as polling shows he is taking much of the blame for the standoff.
On Tuesday, the White House had invited rank-and-file lawmakers to lunch with Trump at the White House as part of a strategy to build support from centrist Democrats and newly elected freshmen, including those from areas where the president is popular with voters. But none of the House Democrats took Trump up on the offer.
Trump ended up lunching with a handful of lesser-known House Republicans.
Trump urged his supporters to call the offices of Democratic lawmakers to press them to support the wall to reopen the government
Republicans complain that Democrats are the ones who are refusing to budge, and they say it’s up to Pelosi to bring Trump a new offer.
Some lawmakers are reluctant to return home for next week’s planned recess — some were planning their first town halls of the new year — as the standoff deepens. JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon told reporters Tuesday that he expects U.S. economic growth to slow to nothing this quarter if the government shutdown continues.
“I hope it doesn’t go to the end of the week,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican. “I’d like to see us have a breakthrough here.”
But hopes of side deals being cut by the White House seemed unlikely, as did the prospect of groups of senators meeting privately to forge a compromise.
Said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., “The shutdown will eventually take us to a place where the average American is angry at and sick of all of us.”