US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he rejected a proposal from a Republican ally in the Senate that would have temporarily reopened closed parts of the government to allow resumption of negotiations on a funding standoff.
As the shutdown, the longest of its type in US history, entered its 24th day, Trump told reporters he disagreed with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal to reopen the government for three weeks.
If talks failed during that period, Graham said on Sunday, then Trump could go ahead and declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and get money for a wall on the US-Mexico border – the issue that triggered the shutdown on December 22.
Amid swelling criticism, Trump has refused to budge on his demand that a spending bill include $5.7bn for a wall on the country’s southern border, a promise on which Trump campaigned for the presidency.
Democrats have rejected Trump’s demand for funding for the border wall in addition to other border funds but have said they would support $1.3bn to bolster border security in other ways, including beefing up the number of Border Patrol agents and increasing surveillance.
Stress mounting on workers
The political crisis caused federal workers to miss their first paycheques on Friday, heightening concerns about mounting financial pressures on employees, including air traffic controllers and airport security officials, who continue to work without pay.
Roughly 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or required to work without pay. Some employees have resorted to selling their possessions or posting appeals on online crowdfunding sites to help pay their bills.
The shutdown also affected travellers as a jump in unscheduled absences among federal airport security screeners forced partial closures of airports in Houston and Miami.
National parks also remain closed, food and drug inspections have been curtailed and key economic data is on hold. Federal courts are set to run out of money on Friday.
During a rally in Washington, DC on Thursday, federal workers, union leaders and Democrats called on the Trump administration to reopen the government.
“Let’s call this shutdown what it is: It’s a lockout,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions, told the crowd.
“Shame on the Senate. Shame on the White House. This lockout has to end, and it has to end now.”
At least two unions have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over the shutdown.
Later on Monday, Trump is scheduled to address a New Orleans gathering of farmers, a key bloc of Trump supporters who have been hit by the shutdown as federal loan and farm aid applications have stalled and key farming and crop data has been delayed.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was set to release its views on the projected size of US soybean stockpiles, among other data, following a record-large domestic harvest and a trade war with China that has slowed US exports.
To fill the void on data, traders and farmers are relying on private crop forecasters, satellite imagery firms and brokerages offering analyses on trade and supplies. Some have been scouring Twitter for tidbits on shifting weather patterns and rumours of grain exports, but say it is difficult to replace the USDA.
“We’re just doing the best we can, looking for as much information as is available,” said Brian Basting, economist for Illinois-based broker Advance Trading, which provides customers with its own harvest and crop supply estimates.
Dan Henebry, an Illinois corn and soy farmer, said the absence of USDA data was making things difficult.
“You delay all these reports and the market has no idea where to go, other than trade guesses,” Henebry said.
Trump has said he could declare a national emergency if he unable to strike a deal with politicians, although on Monday he told reporters he was not looking to do so.
He retweeted criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that urged the top Democratic leaders to negotiate with him.
“I’ve been waiting all weekend. Democrats must get to work now. Border must be secured!” Trump wrote in an early morning tweet on Monday.
About one-quarter of the US government shut down last month as Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. In December, Trump said he would take responsibility for the shutdown but has since shifted the blame to the Democrats. A growing proportion of Americans blame Trump for the closures, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
The president now must win concessions from the Democrats, who took over the US House of Representatives this month following November’s midterm elections. He also must win over enough Senate Democrats to secure the 60 votes needed to pass funding legislation in that chamber.
Declaring a national emergency over immigration issues is fiercely opposed by Democrats and remains unpopular with some Republicans. It also would likely face an immediate legal challenge.
Pelosi called on the Republican-led Senate to vote on several bills passed earlier this month by the House to fund affected departments that do not include money for Trump’s wall.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not take up any legislation that does not have Trump’s support.
Both the Senate and the House were scheduled to reconvene on Monday afternoon, despite a weekend winter storm that shuttered much of the Washington, DC, area; it remained unclear what, if any, steps politicians might take to address the lapsed funding measures for affected agencies.
Senator Chris Coons on Monday reiterated fellow Democrats’ call for Trump to reopen the government while negotiations over the wall and immigration continue.
He acknowledged efforts by Graham and other Republicans to forge a temporary solution but said Trump has been unpredictable even among fellow conservatives with ever-shifting positions.