The Note: Missing middle prolongs spending standoff

Something has to happen outside the negotiations to influence those inside.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There was a moment, late last year, where cooler heads were prevailing and a shutdown was going to be avoided.

But since President Donald Trump reversed himself and chose a shutdown over a spending agreement that didn't fund the border wall, both parties have found themselves captive to the hotter arguments inside their own ranks.

Still now, with no end in sight to the standoff, the president appears poised to undermine negotiations -- led by the vice president -- with his own unpredictability and with his threat to order a wall built on his own if Congress doesn't act.

Democrats don't view moving from a "wall" to a "fence" as a meaningful concession. Their new House majority, meanwhile, is in danger of being defined by calls for impeachment and holding firm against a Trump demand.

Missing in all of this is a meaningful middle. A few Republican senators have said they want to pass spending bills without funding the wall, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sees little incentive to move without the president's blessing.

This week will see shutdown pains spread, due to delayed paychecks and a non-functioning federal workforce.

But until or unless the middle holds more appeal, it's hard to see how an agreement is feasible. Something has to happen outside the negotiating room to influence the thinking of those inside.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The Internal Revenue Service, one of the several federal agencies closed, is reportedly not regularly answering phone calls, issuing refunds, updating forms or readying itself as usual for the upcoming tax season, which normally starts now.

Various news outlets have published stories of Transportation Security Administration agents calling in sick at high numbers instead of working without pay, and slowing airport security lines as a result.

In the justice system, the partial government shutdown has resulted in long-awaited days in court being punted, as cases are stalled or just plain confused.

The National Park Service announced over the weekend it would change its funding structure to make sure, at a minimum, trash was collected and parks were patrolled.

ABC News' call-out for stories from those affected by the shutdown prompted tales of heartbreak, such as the one from an investigator with the U.S. Postal Service inspector general's office, who has been making arrangements to pay his family's bills and working with creditors to pay the minimum loans for his son who's in college.

It is these day-to-day inconveniences and heavy burdens that will likely pile up and put pressure on lawmakers to come to the table.

The TIP with Cheyenne Haslett

After a weekend of "organizing events," which is what Sen. Elizabeth Warren's team called her back-to-back stop in Iowa this past weekend, her voice was hoarse but her presidential pitch was clear: Washington only works for people at the top and she's going to change that.

Though there's speculation that Warren might hit New Hampshire next, she told reporters Sunday she's heading home to Boston before she announces what's next. But Warren's trip is just the beginning -- not only for her, but for 2020.

Just as her campaign was wheels up, former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro's team finalized details for him to touch down for a Monday event in the state. Castro, who touted his "strong vision for the country's future" on ABC News' "This Week" Sunday, has also announced an exploratory committee but doesn't carry the same name recognition Warren has.

Many know Warren as a former Harvard law professor, a progressive senator and a frequent target of the president's Twitter feed. But in Iowa, she sought to focus on her roots.

Over and over again, Warren focused her stump speech on growing up poor in Oklahoma, a close-call with foreclosure on her family's home, her brothers' service in the military, getting into college and then dropping out young to raise a family before eventually -- and unexpectedly -- making the leap to become a U.S. senator.


ABC News' 'Start Here' Podcast

Monday morning's episode features a shutdown story from Danielle Baker, an Oklahoma mother who's already having to tighten her family's food budget ahead of potential cuts to SNAP funding. George Washington University professor Matthew Dallek joins the show to tell us why he thinks the president is on shaky legal ground when it comes to declaring a national emergency over border-wall funding. Then, ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks and ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett break down Elizabeth Warren's weekend in Iowa and Julian Castro's upcoming 2020 announcement.


  • U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation v. Albrecht at 9 a.m.
  • Reps. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, will lead a delegation to Alamogordo, New Mexico, to investigate the circumstances of Felipe Gomez Alonzo while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection at 12:30 p.m. MST.
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen will hold a roundtable with federal workers and federal union leaders to discuss the effects of the government shutdown in Largo, Maryland, at 2:30 p.m.
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro will attend an activist house party in North Liberty, Iowa at 7:15 p.m.
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