The White House has gone all out in trying to convince voters that the government shutdown is the fault of Democrats. Trump has tweeted as much, his son has said so on TV, and his people released photos of the president "hard at work" on Saturday. And now, the White House changed its voicemail message to a shutdown complaint about the Democrats.
You can call the White House on a specific line to leave a comment: 202-456-1111. Normally, an automated system gives you a few options about tours, where to send mail, and offers you the option to leave a message for the president that are relayed by volunteers. Now, though, there's only the voicemail, explaining that messages can't be taken at this time because of the shutdown:
Thank you for calling the White House. Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today, because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down. In the meantime, you can leave a comment for the president at www.whitehouse.gov/contact. We look forward to taking your calls as soon as the government reopens.
There doesn't seem to be a reason why the comment line would be deactivated — unless some part of its operations come from the annual budget. The use of volunteers for the majority of its manpower makes that seem doubtful. It does, though, take away one option for Americans unhappy with the government shutdown to contact the administration.
The last time that it was shutdown was right after the 2017 Inauguration, when the White House was in transition. At the time callers were redirected to Facebook messenger as a means to give feedback.
That didn't sit well with Democrats, and there was a campaign designed to connect callers with Trump businesses around the world instead. After at least some 25,000 calls to Trump businesses, the comment line was reinstated in the middle of February.
As the recording says, Americans can still send their comments through the White House web page at www.whitehouse.gov/contact. Perhaps a few thousand of emails about ending the government shutdown would grease the wheels in Washington.
The current state of the shutdown negotiations are opaque. The Senate and House seem to be on a different page about a future vote on immigration reform, a key current bargaining chip.
The Senate is set to vote at noon Monday on a continuing resolution. That would not address ongoing issues like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or even necessarily provide funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The details of the Senate bill remain unclear.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has not made clear whether his caucus will vote to support the bill. "We have had several conversations, talks will continue, but we have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward that would be acceptable for both sides," Schumer said Sunday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would try to pass an immigration bill either during this next extension of funding, or thereafter. "Should these issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on Feb. 8, 2018, assuming the government remains open, it would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security and related issues," McConnell said Sunday night.
The administration has said it will try to reduce the inconvenience of the shutdown for many Americans. Trump's Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has said that federal agencies are being encouraged to use existing funding sources to keep as many programs open as possible.
Evidently the same could not be said for the White House's comment.