America's federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, (local time) — halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunction.

Senate Republicans fell short of passing a procedural motion that would have kept the federal government funded, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century. The final vote was 50-49.

Five Democrats who represent Trump-country red states crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans, but the GOP lost four of its own, erasing any doubts about the state of partisan bickering in the US Capitol.

While the clerk held the vote open — Republicans John McCain and Mitch McConnell refrained from voting so nothing could be finalised — a bipartisan group of 15 senators huddled on the Senate floor to discuss a path forward.

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Despite hours of attempted negotiations, talks failed and the shutdown was finalised, and quickly the blame game began.

The White House released a statement calling Democrats "obstructionist losers" who "put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country's ability to serve all Americans".

"We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behaviour of obstructionist losers, not legislators," the statement reads, before promising that during the shutdown Trump will continue to work for the American people.

Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in on his way to Israel — blasting Senate Democrats for the congressional failure to keep the Government open.

In a statement he said: "Our administration will do everything within our power to support the brave men and women in uniform who stand on the frontlines of freedom. But as of tonight, due to a completely avoidable government shutdown, they'll stand their post without pay."

McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer each took the floor after the shutdown was finalised — with each lawmaker attempting to paint the opposition party as guilty.

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo / Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo / Bloomberg

McConnell claimed that the Democrats held the opposition party 'hostage' "over the completely unrelated issue of illegal immigration".

Schumer took the floor and immediately blamed McConnell for pushing through the vote when he knew he didn't have the numbers to back it up.

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The seasoned Democrat explained that he met with Trump earlier in the day, saying he'd put the border wall on the table for discussion in exchange for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections.

"But even that wasn't enough," he said.

"The American people know this party is not capable of governing. This will be called the Trump shutdown, because no one deserves blame for the position we find ourselves in other than President Trump."

But despite Trump's attempts to paint democrats as the guilty party, recent polls show Republicans and President Trump will bear most of the blame.

Since the shutdown began at the start of a weekend, many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans.

But any damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged.

Even before the vote, President Donald Trump was pessimistic — seeming resigned to presiding over the first shutdown since 2013.

"Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the dangerous Southern Border," Trump tweeted, referring to the hit the Homeland Security Department would take in the event the Government's wheels grind to a halt.

"Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy," the president claimed.

Shutdowns

The federal government shutdown only partially curbs operations. But the longer it continues, the more likely its impact will be felt. US troops will stay at their posts and mail will get delivered, but almost half of the 2 million civilian federal workers will be barred from doing their jobs if the shutdown extends into Monday.

More frequent in past

The Government has partially shut down three times in the past quarter-century — and far more often in decades past. During Jimmy Carter's administration, shutdowns happened nearly every year, averaging 11 days each. During Ronald Reagan's two terms in the 1980s, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece.

Funding deadline

Since the end of the fiscal year in September, the Government has been operating on temporary funding measures. Republicans and Democrats have not been able to agree on spending levels for the rest of the year, so another short-term measure is the most likely solution.

Democrats want a funding measure to be tied to an immigration deal that protects the thousands of young immigrants facing deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme is set to expire March 5 but that deal has not come together, and Democrats decided to dig in.

First-year blues

President Donald Trump scrapped plans to go to his Mar-a-Lago club for a high-dollar fundraiser last night to commemorate his first year in office. Instead, he spent much of the day in the Oval Office, trying to hash out a deal to keep the government open.