As Shutdown Begins, Lawmakers Grasp for a Way Out

Among the options discussed behind closed doors were proposals that would allocate anywhere from $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion to border security, none of which could be spent on a wall. But it was not clear that conservatives in the House, who insisted on Thursday on adding the $5.7 billion for the barrier the president has demanded, would back that solution.

Lawmakers were exasperated and eager to head home for the Christmas holiday. Some held out hope early Saturday that Democrats would meet the White House halfway on Mr. Trump’s $5 billion demand. Democrats in the Senate have offered, at various points, $1.3 billion or $1.6 billion, while Democrats in the House — whose views are effectively irrelevant because they remain in the minority for another two weeks — have insisted that not a single dollar will go to wall spending.

“This has been the interesting challenge,” Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, told CNN on Saturday morning. “You have the White House that says $5 billion. You have Nancy Pelosi that says zero, you have Chuck Schumer that says $1.3.” He added, “I think there’s a general agreement now that we need to do border security; now it’s figuring out the amount.”

In South Texas on Saturday morning, work by border security officials appeared to continue as usual despite the shutdown. A Customs and Border Protection helicopter hovered over the Rio Grande, and Border Patrol pickup trucks kicked up dirt as they drove on unpaved roads, with one bouncing across the flood levee, the same structure where Mr. Trump said he aims to construct a border wall.

“They’re going to do their job like they’re supposed to,” said Art Del Cueto, an agent in Arizona and vice president of the agency’s labor union. “Nothing changes, except they don’t get paid.”

The effects of the shutdown will spread with time, particularly once the workweek begins. The Smithsonian Institution said it had enough money stored away that its museums, as well as the National Zoo in Washington, could remain open through Jan. 1.

Even agencies that remained open, though, said they may need to curb their operations. The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, Fla., for example, said it would still issue its usual predictions and alerts, but that it would limit social media posts “to subjects that are directly related to forecasts and warnings.”