US government heads towards shutdown as Donald Trump and Democrats fail to agree budget spending deal

Hundreds of thousands of employees will work without pay

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Saturday 22 December 2018 01:05
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Fox and Friends attacks Trump over government shutdown

Hundreds of thousands of US federal workers are bracing for a government shutdown as Donald Trump and Democrats appeared unable to reach a compromise on a funding bill.

The president delayed his planned departure from Washington – an indication he was still hopeful a deal could yet be reached – while the first lady flew to the couple’s estate in Florida.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, members of the senate decided in a tied vote – broken by the vote of vice president Mike Pence – to continue discussing the potential to reach an agreed spending measure. If the agreement was not reached by midnight EST on Friday, part of the government would go into shutdown.

In truth, that sounds less dramatic than it may be. Funding for a large part of the government has already been secured, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers – including border agents and airline security employees – will continue to work without pay. They will then get it back, once a deal is reached.

The sticking point in reaching a deal has been Mr Trump’s insistence that the government budget measure contain $5bn for a wall on the US-Mexico border – something he has repeatedly vowed to secure.

Donald Trump says it is 'too early to say' for whether US government will go into shutdown

Earlier this week, senators agreed bipartisan measure that included around $1.3bn in border security spending, but not a wall. It appeared the president would agree to this, but then he faced a barrage of criticism of rightwing media figures such as Ann Coulter and Matt Drudge.

At that point, Mr Trump dug his feet in and said he would not agree to a deal within funding for a wall. He previously said he would be “proud” to enforce a shutdown if it got him wall funding.

On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a measure that included $5.7bn for a wall. But such a measure to be passed in the Senate would require 60 Republican votes, something they do not have.

As a result, Republicans and Democrats in the senate agreed to keep trying to reach a compromise even though few doubted they would reach a deal. Even if a measure is agreed, it would then have to be passed by the House, before the president can sign it. Many members of the House have already left Washington for the holidays and retuned to their districts, so any funding deal is likely several days away.

“There’s not going to be a vote tonight. You could take it to the ban,” Republican Senate whip John Cornyn told reporters.

On Friday afternoon, Mr Trump tweeted an image what he called a “steel slat barrier”, perhaps indicating he would he happy with something other than a solid wall. “A design of our steel slat barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful,” he tweeted.

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