VOA NEWS/Ken Bredemeier
The partial U.S. government shutdown is in its 13th day, with no end in sight after President Donald Trump and congressional leaders failed to reach agreement on how to reopen shuttered agencies.
«The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election,» Trump claimed Thursday in a Twitter comment. «The Democrats know they can’t win based on all of the achievements of ‘Trump,’ so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security – and Presidential Harassment. For them, strictly politics!»
About a quarter of U.S. government agencies remained closed, with uncollected trash piling up at some national parks and 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or working without pay until the standoff is resolved.
Trump is demanding more than $5 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border as part of the deal to reopen the government, telling opposition Democratic leaders on Wednesday he «would look foolish» to cave in on his signature 2016 campaign pledge to erect the barrier to thwart illegal immigration.
But Nancy Pelosi, set to take over as House speaker when Democrats assume control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, said Democrats would give «nothing for the wall,» aside from their offer for $1.3 billion for improved border security.
House Democrats plan to quickly approve legislation to fund the closed agencies through September, while approving a budget through Feb. 8 for the Department of Homeland Security, which controls border operations, but it would not provide funds for a border wall.
But Trump told congressional leaders at the White House meeting that he would not sign the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would not take up any House-approved measures unless Trump has agreed to eventually sign them to end the shutdown. Trump invited the lawmakers back to the White House for more talks Friday.
The shutdown is already one of the longer such closures in U.S. history. There was no clear path to its end.
«Could be a long time, or it could be quickly,» Trump said. But he said the border wall is «too important a subject to walk away from.» He said he would keep the shutdown going «as long as it takes» to secure funding for the barrier.
One of his staunchest congressional allies, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, said it would be «the end of his presidency» if Trump were to give up on construction of the wall.
At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump contended that «walls work,» and called the border with Mexico a «sieve.»
Trump said there are as many as 35 million illegal immigrants in the United States, contradicting experts who say the number is far lower.
«We’re talking about national security. This isn’t just a border, this is national security,» Trump said. «This is health and wellness. This is everything.»
The president used Twitter late Wednesday to again say he is willing to work with Democrats on a bill that would secure U.S. borders. Hours later he followed with another post, declaring, «Sadly, there can be no REAL Border Security without the Wall!»
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said after Wednesday’s meeting he had asked Trump to provide «one good reason» why the shutdown should continue, and that Trump «could not give a good answer.»
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters he thinks it is possible lawmakers and the president can agree on a resolution «rather quickly.»
«We know we have a challenge along the border. We want to solve that issue,» McCarthy said. «We want to make sure we open this government up. And I think at the end of the day, the president, listening to him, he wants to solve this, as well.»
Pelosi accused Trump of holding the federal government hostage over his campaign promise to build the wall that Mexico would pay for.
«That is so ridiculous. A, Mexico’s not paying for it. And B, we have better use of funds to protect our border. The president knows that,» Pelosi said.