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Slat man: Trump's Christmas shutdown spooks GOP

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's self-inflicted shutdown before Christmas has left Republicans with a debacle as their last act in control of the House. And now the party is even more worried about the outlook beginning Jan. 3, when Democrats take over. "It's a showdown, but one side has already lost," said one outside adviser in close touch with the West Wing.

Why it matters: The shutdown is a preview of how divided government could play out, with a Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the first national counterweight President Trump has had since he was inaugurated two years ago.

Be smart: The result will be further division, bitterness and paralysis in our politics and government.

  • The shutdown demonstrates that Democrats won't just challenge Trump through oversight, but will also resist him in high-profile policy areas.
  • It also shows that Trump, so proud of the bestselling status of "The Art of the Deal," is in no mood to finesse newly powerful Democrats. With his eye on 2020, he's all about the base, with no apparent plans to co-opt the center.

A top White House official told me last night that negotiations were underway, and progress was being made.

  • And the official said that after the criticism of Trump by fellow Republicans over the Syria decision and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Republican lawmakers hopped on planes all over the country to come and support him during unexpected votes at the Capitol yesterday.

House Republican leaders had been worried that so many defeated or retiring members might stay home that there wouldn't be a quorum. The GOP wound up with plenty of votes — but just no solution Trump would take.

  • A House Republican leadership aide told me: "We didn’t have the attendance issue we thought we might. And members were advised to stay close, and we’ll also give ample notice to get back to vote if there is a breakthrough."
  • "Members were vocal this week that they want to get [the wall funding Trump supports] done."
  • "But we're just waiting to see what the Senate and White House can put together."

In the Oval Office just 11 days ago, Trump told Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer: "I am proud to shut down the government for border security ... I’m not going to blame you for it."

  • So that made his messaging tougher when he tweeted yesterday: "The Democrats now own the shutdown!"

And somehow this pitch didn't win over the Democrats:

For Republicans, the hell of this is that this could have been a celebratory week to a bleak political year:

  • Trump yesterday signed a years-in-the making criminal justice reform bill, the First Step Act — an authentic bipartisan accomplishment that makes a true difference in the lives of tens of thousands.

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