President Donald Trump said he'll agree with Democrats to temporarily reopen the government after a historic shutdown over his call for a border wall
President Donald Trump said Friday he would agree to temporarily reopen the federal government for three weeks after a 35-day shutdown — a historic closure begun by his demand for a border wall, which Congressional Democrats, empowered in the midterms, have roundly rejected.
With the president’s assent, both houses of Congress are expected to imminently pass spending bills and Trump said the measures would guarantee backpay for affected workers.
After five weeks, the president’s reversal amounted to a concession to the Democrats’ stated position throughout: End the shutdown, which affects nine federal agencies and some 800,000 employees, while continuing to negotiate about the specific issue of border security.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has said Trump’s insistence on a wall with Mexico amounted to “holding Americans hostage.” She called such a wall “immoral” and “ineffective.”
The president contends a barrier is needed to stave off a “crisis” of drugs, violence and human trafficking.
Democrats, however, have said they will work with the president and Republicans to hash out broad funding for other border security measures — a compromise Trump accepted Friday while making an oblique reference to his ability to declare a “national emergency” if needed in the future to try and fund a wall without Congressional approval.
Trump said that during the three weeks the government is reopened, until Feb. 15, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers will meet with homeland security experts to put together a bill funding new measures including, he hoped, a wall.
For a month he has insisted on just such a barrier, which was a signature issue during his campaign.
Ever bold, Trump vowed earlier this month the shutdown could last months, a year or even longer if he did not get his way.
On Friday, despite his concession in allowing the government to reopen without the guarantee of a wall, he said he was not backing down from it as a key proposal. Without agreement, the country will merely repeat the entire shutdown.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shutdown on Feb. 15 again or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency. We will have great security.”
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Last weekend, amid mounting pressure from those squeezed by the funding freeze, Trump announced his own possible compromise, which Congress quickly dismissed. He proposed: Give him $5.7 billion for a wall and other measures and in exchange he would temporarily extend some immigration reforms he had dismantled (which was seen as as Democratic priority).
Trump’s announcement moving to end the shutdown without wall funding in place, made in the Rose Garden at the White House, falls on what would have been the second Friday without paychecks going out for government workers.
Some 800,000 federal employees and many more contractors have been without pay since the shutdown began on Dec. 22.
Single mom Kristie Scarazzo, a botanist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was one of the hundreds of thousands stranded. She spoke with PEOPLE last week in tears, scrambling for options as the weeks passed without money.
“I don’t know what I am going to do,” she says. “I don’t even have my wedding ring to sell.”