NEWS
22/12/2018 10:07 GMT

US Government Partially Shuts Down Over Border Wall Deadlock

Donald Trump's funding demands have led to an impasse, disrupting hundreds of thousands of government workers just days before Christmas.

The US government has partially shut down following a deadlock over Donald Trump’s funding demands for his Mexican border wall.

The President is asking for at least $5 billion (£4.51 billion) dollars to start erecting the wall, which was one of his key election promises.

The shutdown comes after both the House and Senate adjourned on Friday without reaching a compromise, and government funding for a number of departments and US federal agencies lapsed at midnight.

It means departments including Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, State, and Justice will begin to shut down, while federal national parks and forests will also close.

Vice President Mike Pence, senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney left the Capitol late on Friday after hours of bargaining with congressional leaders produced no apparent compromise.

“We don’t have a deal. We’re still talking,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby told reporters.

Mulvaney on Friday told agency bosses to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown”, adding that administration officials hoped it would not last long.

What Is The Impact Of The Shutdown?

AP

With negotiations expected to continue, the House and Senate both scheduled rare Saturday sessions. 

The gridlock blocks money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies.

The lack of funds will disrupt many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees.

Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas, while 380,000 will be given a leave of absence, meaning they will stay home without pay.

Those being given a leave of absence include nearly everyone at Nasa and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About eight in 10 employees of the National Park Service will stay home and many parks are expected to close.

The Senate passed legislation ensuring workers will receive back pay, which the House is likely to approve.

But the FBI, the US postal service, border patrol and coast guard will not be affected.

Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded for the year in agreements reached earlier, and they will operate as usual.

Why A Shutdown?

The Senate passed a temporary spending bill on Wednesday in order to keep federal agencies open until February 8, but the agreement, to be signed off by Trump, did not include funding for his wall.

He has refused to sign any spending bill that doesn’t include the funding.

But in a Republican victory on Thursday, the House rebelled and approved a package temporarily financing the government but also providing 5.7 billion dollars (£4.51 billion) for the border wall.

Spending bills are approved in the House of Representatives with a majority vote. Republicans currently dominate that chamber, but only until January when Democrats will take control.

On Friday afternoon, Trump’s party lacked the 60 votes they would need to force that measure through, where they only hold 51 seats.

That jump-started negotiations between Congress and the White House.

Shortly before the House adjourned on Friday evening, Trump tweeted that he was still awaiting a spending decision and that he had canceled his planned Christmas trip to Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Trump has openly savoured a shutdown over the wall for months, saying last week he would be “proud” to have one and saying on Friday he was “totally prepared for a very long” closure.

While many of Congress’ most conservative Republicans were welcoming such a confrontation, most Republican politicians have wanted to avoid one, since polling shows the public broadly opposes the wall and a shutdown over it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of “throwing a temper tantrum”.

Looking for a way to claim victory, Trump said he would accept money for a “Steel Slat Barrier” with spikes on the top, which he said would be just as effective as a “wall” and “at the same time beautiful.”