Trump Strikes Short-Term Deal To Reopen Government For 3 Weeks

Ends Longest Gov't Shutdown In US History

AP
January 25, 2019 - 2:41 pm

Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA

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 WASHINGTON (AP) - Yielding to growing pressure, President Donald Trump and 
congressional leaders on Friday appeared set to seal a short-term deal to reopen 
the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over the president's 
demands for money to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
 
 Trump was to speak about the 35-day impasse as intensifying delays at the 
nation's airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to 
resolve the standoff.
 
 After saying for weeks that he would not reopen the government without border 
wall money, Trump was expected to agree to a bill to re-open the government 
without additional money for his signature campaign promise, according to five 
people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity 
because they were not authorized to reveal private discussion.
 
 Three people familiar with the negotiations on Capitol Hill said the deal would 
restore money for the shuttered agencies for three weeks, while negotiations 
continue on a longer-term solution. 
 
 Overnight and into Friday, at least five Republican senators had been calling 
Trump, urging him to reopen the government and have the Senate consider his 
request for border wall money through regular legislation, according to a person 
familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss the private talks 
publicly.
 
 The burst of movement came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty 
International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing at least 90-minute 
delays in takeoffs Friday.
 
 The world's busiest airport _ Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 
_ was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it 
expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.
 
 Trump and the Democrats in Congress had remained at odds over his demand that 
any compromise include money for his coveted border wall.
 
 The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain 
Barry Black called on high powers in the ``hour of national turmoil'' to help 
senators do ``what is right.''
 
 Senators were talking with increased urgency after Thursday's defeat of 
competing proposals from Trump and the Democrats. The bipartisan talks provided 
a glimmer of hope that some agreement could be reached to halt the longest-ever 
closure of federal agencies, at least temporarily.
 
 ``There are discussions on the Senate side,'' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told 
reporters Friday morning as she entered the Capitol. ``We are in touch with 
them.'' Asked about Trump's demands for border security measures as part of a 
bill temporarily reopening government, Pelosi said, ``One step at a time.''
 
 Pelosi was referring to a meeting Thursday between Senate Majority Leader Mitch 
McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to explore next 
steps for solving the vitriolic stalemate.
 
 Pressure has been building among both parties to reopen agencies immediately 
and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers 
hunt for a deal.
 
 Monday is the start of federal tax filing season. But fewer than half of the 
furloughed IRS employees recalled during the shutdown to handle tax returns and 
send out refunds reported for work as of Tuesday, according to congressional and 
government aides. The employees had been told to work without pay.
 
 At the White House Thursday, Trump told reporters he'd support ``a reasonable 
agreement'' to reopen the government. He suggested he'd also want a ``prorated 
down payment'' for his long-sought border wall with Mexico but didn't describe 
the term. He said he has ``other alternatives'' for getting wall money, an 
apparent reference to his disputed claim that he could declare a national 
emergency and fund the wall's construction using other programs in the federal 
budget.
 
 Contributing to the pressure on lawmakers to find a solution was the harsh 
reality confronting 800,000 federal workers, who on Friday faced a second 
two-week payday with no paychecks.
 
 In an embarrassment to Trump, a Democratic proposal to end the shutdown got two 
more votes in the Senate on Thursday than a GOP plan, even though Republicans 
control the chamber 53-47. Six Republicans backed the Democratic plan, including 
freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who's clashed periodically with the 
president.
 
 The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening the government through 
September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he's demanded for building segments 
of that wall, a project that he'd long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 
vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.
 
 Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to 
open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes 
short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting 
paychecks to government workers who are either working without pay or being 
forced to stay home.
 
 Thursday's votes came after Vice President Mike Pence lunched privately with 
restive GOP senators, who told him they were itching for the standoff to end, 
participants said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said their message to Pence was, 
``Find a way forward.''
 
 Throughout, the two sides issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked 
negotiations from even starting: Trump has refused to reopen government until 
Congress gives him the wall money, and congressional Democrats have rejected 
bargaining until he reopens government.

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