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Sunday 22 September 2019

Government shutdown likely to stretch into next week

Politicians are away from Washington for the holidays and have been told they will get 24 hours’ notice before having to return for a vote.

(AP)
(AP)

By Juliet Linderman and Darlene Superville, Associated Press

The chances of ending the partial US government shutdown in the near future are looking increasingly slim.

House politicians are being told not to expect further votes this week, all but ensuring the shutdown will enter a second week and stretch towards the new year.

Politicians are away from Washington for the holidays and have been told they will get 24 hours’ notice before having to return for a vote.

And although both the House the Senate were due to come into session briefly on Thursday afternoon, few senators or representatives were expected to be around for it.

President Donald Trump is vowing to hold the line on his demand for money to build a border wall.

Back from the 29-hour trip to visit US troops, President Trump tweeted that “we desperately need” a wall on the Mexico border, funding for which has been a flashpoint between the White House and Congress ever since he took office.

He called on Democrats in Congress to fund his wall, saying the shutdown affects their supporters. He asserted without evidence: “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”

Virginia Democratic Sen Mark Warner called President Trump’s comments “outrageous”.

In his tweet, he added: “Federal employees don’t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They’re public servants. And the President is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos.”

After a weekend and two holiday days for federal employees, Wednesday was the first regularly scheduled workday affected by the closure of a variety of federal services.

A brief statement on Thursday from the office of Louisiana Rep Steve Scalise appeared to the dim the prospect for a quick solution.

“Members are advised that no votes are expected in the House this week,” the statement said. “Please stay tuned to future updates for more information.”

The shutdown started on Saturday when funding lapsed for nine Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies.

Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and are working unpaid, while an additional 380,000 have been put on hold.

While the White House was talking to congressional Democrats — and staff talks continued on Capitol Hill — negotiations dragged on Wednesday, dimming hopes for a swift breakthrough.

Republican Rep Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a Trump ally who has been involved in the talks, said the president “is very firm in his resolve that we need to secure our border”.

He told CNN, “If they believe that this president is going to yield on this particular issue, they’re misreading him.”

The impasse over government funding began last week, when the Senate approved a bipartisan deal keeping government open into February.

That bill provided $1.3 billion (£1 billion) for border security projects but not money for the wall. At President Trump’s urging, the House approved that package and inserted the $5.7 billion (£4.5 billion) he had requested.

But Senate Republicans lacked the votes they needed to force the measure through their chamber. That jump-started negotiations between Congress and the White House, but the deadline came and went without a deal.

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