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US Politics

Shutdown day 1: Trump warns it could be a ‘long stay’ amid impasse over border wall

  • Partial shutdown starts after Trump torpedoed a bipartisan deal that would have kept the government open through February 8
  • Trump was demanding billions of dollars to build a wall along the US-Mexico border
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 3:22am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 3:22am

The Capitol was quiet on Saturday morning in the opening hours of a partial government shutdown, after lawmakers went home on Friday evening with the government still at an impasse over President Donald Trump’s demands for billions of dollars to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Both the House and Senate opened at noon Saturday, but there were no signs of progress in negotiations, which have only been happening at the staff level since a brief huddle late Friday afternoon with Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Few lawmakers were in the Capitol building Saturday morning, and no votes were scheduled in either chamber. Many lawmakers took off Friday night to return to their homes as they await word of the talks, having been assured that they will get 24 hours notice before any vote occurs to reopen government.

That all but guarantees the shutdown will last at least through the weekend.

Trump wrote on Twitter that “We are negotiating with the Democrats on desperately needed Border Security … but it could be a long stay.”

And indeed, the fundamental stalemate remains in place: Trump says he won’t accept legislation unless it contains money for his border wall, and Democrats have the votes to block any legislation that does. Trump sees this round of negotiations as his best – and possibly last – chance to get money from Congress for the wall, as Democrats are set to take over the House in January after big wins in the midterm elections.

US government partially shuts after Congress and President Trump fail to reach a deal

Now that gridlock is affecting large parts of the federal government. Funding for numerous agencies, including those that operate parks, homeland security, law enforcement, tax collection and transportation, expired at midnight. Close to 400,000 federal workers are expected to be home without pay until a deal is reached, and numerous services will be halted in that time, with the affects broadening the longer the funding lapse lasts.

Multiple federal parks and monuments are slated to close, some as soon as Saturday morning. The Securities and Exchange Commission posted a list of the services it will soon suspend, including the processing of certain business records. The Justice Department, Commerce Department and Internal Revenue Service are preparing to keep thousands of workers home without pay.

The rest of the government, including the military, is funded through September by separate legislation Congress and Trump passed earlier this year.

Saturday’s partial shutdown starts after Trump torpedoed a bipartisan deal that would have kept the government open through February 8 but deny Trump any wall money. Lawmakers had cautiously expected Trump to sign the deal, especially after he suggested he could have the military build his wall anyway. That strategy is legally dubious, as any funding would have to be redirected by Congress.

But after a fierce conservative backlash against the deal, including from media outlets and figures known to have Trump’s ear, the president reversed course – a flip that garnered bipartisan protest on Capitol Hill.

After Trump rejected the deal, House Republicans on Thursday passed a bill to extend funding through February and allocate US$5.7 billion for a border wall, a bill Senate Democrats could block with votes to spare.

“President Trump, you will not get your wall,” Schumer said Friday. “You’re not getting your wall today, next week or on January 3 when Democrats take control of the House.”