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Donald Trump

Trump says shutdown was ‘nice present’ from Democrats

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2018, 4:13am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2018, 4:13am

Americans woke up yesterday to learn that bickering politicians in Washington had failed to keep their government in business, stopping all but essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

It was a striking display of Washington dysfunction, and the finger-pointing came quickly. Trump tweeted that Democrats “wanted to give me a nice present” to mark the start of his second year in office.

The Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin considering a three-week version of a short-term spending measure. It seemed likely that each side would push for votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering US federal agencies.

“Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!” Trump tweeted.

Essential services and military activity will continue but many public sector workers will be sent home without wages and even serving soldiers will not be paid until a deal is reached to reopen the US government.

“Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous southern Border,” Trump had tweeted earlier.

“They could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead … This is the One Year Anniversary of my Presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present.”

Vice-President Mike Pence had earlier raised the issue of soldiers’ salaries after meeting with US military personnel on a stopover in Shannon Airport in Ireland ahead of a three-country tour of the Middle East.

“You have troops headed down range to Kuwait for six months and they are anxious about the fact that they aren’t going to get paid right away,” he said “It’s unconscionable.”

A deal appeared likely on ­Friday afternoon, when Trump seemed close to an agreement with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on a measure to prevent the expulsion of undocumented migrants who arrived in the country as children.

“Every American knows the Republican Party controls the White House, the Senate, the House – it is their job to keep the government open. It is their job to work with us to move forward,” Schumer told the Senate after its 50 to 49 vote against a deal.

Democrats accused the ­Republicans of poisoning the chances for a deal and pandering to Trump’s populist base by ­refusing to fund a programme that protects about 700,000 so-called dreamers – illegal immigrants who first arrived in the United States as children – from deportation.

The president shelved plans to fly to Florida to celebrate at his Mar-a-Lago estate the first anniversary of his inauguration, to ­remain in Washington to ride out the storm.

Republicans have a tenuous one-seat majority in the Senate but would have needed to lure some Democrats to their side to get a 60 vote supermajority to bring the motion forward. They fell 10 votes short.

The measure brought to ­Congress would have extended federal funding until February 16 and reauthorised for six years a health insurance programme for poor children. But it would have cut the ­Deferred Action on Childhood ­Arrivals (DACA) programme that affects the Dreamers. Negotiations with the White House on a DACA compromise blew up last week after Trump reportedly referred to ­African nations and Haiti as “s***hole countries”.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press