WASHINGTON — Republican leaders gave up hope on Thursday of reopening the government before the new year, leaving the border wall impasse to House Democrats as they assume the majority next week — and presenting Representative Nancy Pelosi with her first major challenge as speaker.
House Democrats, who assume control on Wednesday, are weighing three approaches to getting funds flowing, none of which would include additional money for President Trump’s proposed wall along the southwestern border. Whichever path they choose, party leaders said they would vote promptly on Jan. 3, hoping to project the image of Democrats as a steadying hand in Washington even as Republicans try to blame the shutdown and lax border control on Ms. Pelosi and her party.
“We will vote swiftly to reopen government and show that Democrats will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.
Ms. Pelosi is determined to prevent the shutdown brinkmanship from interfering with the Democrats’ assumption of power and her ceremony-soaked return to the speakership. But it appeared almost certain that the careful rollout of Democrats’ legislative agenda — including a sweeping anticorruption and voting rights bill — would be at least partly eclipsed by the funding crisis. The shutdown has affected about a quarter of the government, left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay, and on Thursday entered its sixth day.
Mr. Trump and his allies showed no signs of letting up. Though the president said on national television that he would proudly shut down the government to secure wall funding, Republicans are no longer embracing the mounting crisis.
“The only rational conclusion is that the Democrat Party is openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The president does not want the government to remain shut down, but he will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritize our county’s safety and security.”
The planning for next week’s Democratic takeover was almost all that went on in a desolate Capitol on Thursday. The Senate reconvened for the first time since before Christmas, but with negotiations between the White House and Senate Democrats going nowhere, the session lasted four minutes.
“We just have to get through this,” said Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, who presided over the session. He added, “They say a house divided against itself cannot stand. That’s about where we are.”
The House met just as briefly, and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the majority whip, told lawmakers not to expect votes for the rest of the year. When Democrats sent Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts to the floor to try to force consideration of a stopgap funding bill that the Senate had already passed, Republicans would not recognize him.
Back from a brief trip to visit troops overseas, Mr. Trump appeared to dig in on his demand that Congress approve $5 billion in additional funds as a down payment on the border wall. In a torrent of tweets and in the formal statement from the White House, he accused Democrats of favoring permissive immigration laws and border security, at one point suggesting that his wall may have prevented the killing of a police officer in California.
In another post, he said that the Democrats were politically motivated, and their efforts would backfire: “This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win.”
The gibes appeared to have troubled the Democrats little. They have offered Mr. Trump $1.3 billion for border security and not budged. They say they are more than willing to approve substantial funding increases for security at the southern border with Mexico, just not for the continuous physical barrier that the president advocates. Such a wall, they argue, is an ineffective and inefficient response to an immigration system in disrepair.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, is determined to prevent the shutdown from interfering with the Democrats’ assumption of power in the House.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times
House Democratic leaders plan to pass a stopgap measure to fund the government into February, another stopgap measure that would fund it through September, or the bipartisan, yearlong spending bills for everything but the Department of Homeland Security. That department, which handles the border, would be funded by a separate stopgap measure that maintains current financing levels and policies.
A vote on any of the bills would probably take place next Thursday, after Ms. Pelosi is expected to be elected speaker and make her first speech to the House. Democrats still plan to make a wide-ranging anticorruption and voting rights bill their opening legislative priority. They will introduce the first bill of the Democratic House — which includes changes to campaign finance law, outlaws gerrymandering, and restores enforcement authority to the Voting Rights Act — on Wednesday, followed with a marquee unveiling ceremony on Friday on the steps of the Capitol.
“The American people voted for divided government and made the decision that they no longer want a House of Representative that functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump administration,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the soon-to-be No. 5 House Democrat, said in an interview. “On Jan. 3, House Democrats will get the opportunity to show the American people that we can be the adults in the room.”
But Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump in the border fight, said Democrats would not be able to put the issue to rest quickly.
“The president’s made it very clear he will veto anything that doesn’t have border security funding attached to it,” he said. “So it may be a good messaging bill, but it won’t make for good legislation.”
Caught in the middle will be Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. Mr. McConnell has all but removed himself from the conflict to this point. After the president torpedoed the Senate’s temporary spending deal to avert the shutdown, Mr. McConnell said a solution would be up to the White House and Democrats to negotiate. He adjourned the Senate last Saturday and said it would return for votes only if there was a deal that could win 60 votes and a presidential signature.
But Mr. McConnell could also choose to bring whatever House Democrats pass up for a vote, allowing it to publicly fail as a way to force Mr. Trump and Democrats to the negotiating table.
The stakes of the government closing, which have thus far been muted by the holidays, will grow in the days to come.
The Office of Personnel Management encouraged affected federal employees on Thursday to ask their landlords and other creditors if they would be able to pay just part of their bills for the duration of the shutdown. The office also advised employees to consult their “personal attorney” if they had further problems.
The Smithsonian, which has been operating on reserve funds, announced it would have to close all museums, research centers and the National Zoo in Washington, beginning on Jan. 2 until the stalemate is resolved.
Justice Department lawyers have asked for delays or extensions in a number of prominent cases in which they are defending administration policies or the president, citing the partial shutdown and the federal statutes they say prohibit most voluntary and paid work in the absence of funding. Immigration courts, already facing backlogs, were forced to reschedule some of their cases until after funding resumed.
(Because the funding for the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is not dependent on Congress’s action, the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 has ground on.)
And Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said that he had been informed that the Department of Homeland Security had issued guidance preventing the Federal Emergency Management Agency from writing or renewing flood insurance policies under the National Flood Insurance Program during the shutdown.
“I strongly disagree with this guidance as it incorrectly interprets congressional intent,” Mr. Rubio said, adding that he had formally asked for a reversal.