Parts of US gov’t shut down after politicians fail to reach deal

Refusing to back down on his border wall funding demand, Trump says partial government shutdown may last for long time.

The United States government officially shut down at midnight on Friday (05:00 GMT) after President Donald Trump‘s fellow Republicans in the Senate failed to muster the votes needed to approve $5bn fund he has demanded for a border wall fiercely opposed by Democrats.

Earlier on Friday, Trump said a shutdown of key parts of the federal government could last “a very long time”. Democrats put the blame squarely on Trump for refusing to back down on his demand for the wall. 

“President Trump has thrown a temper tantrum and now has us careening towards a ‘Trump shutdown’ over Christmas,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Friday.

“You’re not getting the wall today, next week or on January 3rd, when Democrats take control of the House,” Schumer added.

In the hours leading up to the shutdown, Republicans and Democrats made a number of last-ditch efforts to come to a compromise. But with Trump unwilling to budge on a demand that Democrats oppose, a deal could not be reached. 

Senators are expected to resume talks on Saturday in hopes of reaching a deal to resume government operations before the end of the holiday weekend.  

Week of mixed signals


Trump’s refusal to cave in on Friday came despite indications from the White House earlier in the week that the administration had found an alternative way to get the money needed for the wall.

In a series of early morning tweets on Friday, Trump lashed out at Senate Democrats and encouraged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, to attempt to change Senate rules, often called the “nuclear option”, to get the funding through.

Trump has previously said he would be “proud” to shut down the government “for border security”.

Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Marco Rubio expressed frustration with what they said was a shifting position by the White House. Rubio said that earlier in the week the Republicans went with their funding bill, which included $1.3bn for general border security but nothing specifically for a wall, because Pence had told them the White House was open to such a proposal.

“We had a reasonable path and there was every indication from the president that he would sign it,” Alexander said.

Who will be affected?

Funding for about 25 percent of the government has expired, meaning about nine Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and Agriculture Department, will be affected. 

About 800,000 federal employees are expected to either be furloughed or required to work without pay. 

Agencies are expected to limit staff to those deemed “essential” to public safety. Such critical workers, including US border agents, and nonessential employees would not get paid until the dispute ends.

More than half of the 1,700 people who work for the executive office of the president would be furloughed.

The possibility of a government shutdown fed investor anxieties that contributed to another down day on Friday for US stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.82 percent, the S&P 500 lost 2.06 percent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.99 percent.

The showdown added to tensions in Washington as congressmen also grappled with Trump’s sudden move to pull troops from Syria, which prompted Jim Mattis, the defence secretary, to resign and furthered concerns over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election that Trump won. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies