Trump announces deal to lift shutdown

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President Donald Trump has endorsed a deal to reopen the US government for three weeks, after a record-breaking shutdown of federal agencies.

Congressional sources say the pact does not include any money that Mr Trump has demanded for a US-Mexico border wall.

The Republican president previously vowed to reject any such bill unless it included $ 5.7bn (£4.3bn) to fund his signature campaign pledge.

But Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have flatly refused.

What did President Trump say?

Speaking on day 35 of the shutdown in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump said the agreement would fund the government until 15 February.

He said federal workers affected by the political imbroglio, whom he called “incredible patriots”, would receive full back-pay.

Mr Trump also said he had decided at this time not to resort to “a very powerful alternative” – an apparent reference to declaring a national emergency.

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This could divert military funding towards building a southern border wall, but such a proclamation would provoke constitutional uproar and legal challenges.

However, the president added: “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress the government will either shut down on February 15 again.

“Or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

What next?

Speaking on the Senate floor just after the president’s announcement, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped Democrats will now honour their promises to negotiate “on good faith” with Republicans about border security.

His Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached.

“I genuinely hope that this process can produce something that is good for the country and acceptable to both sides,” Mr Schumer said.

He added that while the parties disagreed on certain details, both sides agree on some issues including the need to “strengthen security at our ports of entry”.

“That bodes well for coming to an eventual agreement,” Mr Schumer said.

A brief Trump retreat

For more than a month, Donald Trump insisted he would not support reopening the federal government without funding for his border wall.

On Friday, as the fallout from the partial shutdown sent tremors through the US aviation system, the president backed down.

Before all this began, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell reportedly warned the president that there was no clear way to win a shutdown standoff with Democrats, who – flush off their November election victories – wouldn’t relent.

The wily Kentucky senator, with more than a few legislative victories under his belt, was vindicated.

That must be cold comfort for congressional Republicans, who have watched their party – and the president – take the brunt of the blame for the impasse. And it now sets up a three-week period of frenetic negotiations to reach a border security agreement.

If the federal employees have been drowning because of the shutdown, this temporary funding agreement gives them a chance for a desperate gulp of air.

In three weeks, another shutdown looms, however. Or, the president warned, he could declare a national emergency and take the border battle to the courts.

Either way, the president has retreated – but the fight is far from over.

How bad has the shutdown been?

Mr Trump’s statement came as some 800,000 civil servants missed another payday amid the five-week impasse.

On the Senate floor, Democrat Bernie Sanders called attention to the many contract workers who have also missed wages during the shutdown.

“I remain concerned about the over one million contract employees, often folks who work for low wages, who have not only lost pay, but at this point at least are not protected by any legislation to make sure that they get their back pay.”

Mr Sanders added: “How sad it is that after all of the suffering, all of the uncertainty that our federal employees have faced, we are back to exactly where we were five weeks ago.”

Earlier on Friday, hundreds of flights were grounded or delayed at US airports because of unpaid air traffic controllers calling in sick.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) halted arrivals for nearly an hour at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Flights were also delayed at Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport because of staff shortages, the FAA said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees failed to show up after they were ordered to return to work unpaid, the Washington Post reported.

The Trump administration recalled 26,000 IRS workers this week to handle the looming tax filing season.

But about 14,000 of them did not come back, and most could not even be reached, IRS officials told members of Congress.


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