US partial shutdown becomes longest in history

The partial shutdown of the US government has become the longest on record, with still no end in sight to the political standoff.

On Saturday it reaches its 22nd day, overtaking the previous record – the 21-day shutdown in 1995-96 under then-President Bill Clinton.

President Donald Trump is refusing to approve a budget unless it includes funds for a wall on the Mexican border.

Democrats have rejected his request for $5.7bn (£4.5bn).

About a quarter of the federal government is still out of operation until a spending plan is agreed, leaving 800,000 employees unpaid.

On Friday, those workers – including prison guards, airport staff and FBI agents – missed their first salaries of the year.

The House and the Senate voted to give federal workers back pay whenever the federal government reopens and then left town for the weekend.

Meanwhile, President Trump has calmed speculation that he is about to declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and get the money he needs. His proposed border wall was a key election pledge.

“What we’re not looking to do right now is a national emergency,” Trump said. He insisted that he had the authority to do that, adding that he’s “not going to do it so fast” because he’d still prefer to work a deal with Congress.

He described an emergency declaration as an “easy way out” and added: “If they can’t do it… I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right.”

Correspondents say Democrats would mount an immediate legal challenge if Trump made such a move.

The White House explored diverting money for wall construction from a range of other accounts. One idea being considered was diverting some of the $13.9bn allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers after last year’s deadly hurricanes and floods.

That option triggered an outcry from officials in Puerto Rico and some states recovering from natural disasters and appeared to lose steam on Friday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that it was “time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier”. But other Republicans have expressed doubts, given the potential legal hurdles, such a move may face.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here