WASHINGTON: The US government partial shutdown was set to stretch deep into next week after legislators failed Thursday to make a breakthrough in the row over President Donald Trump’s demand for a US-Mexico border wall.
After convening for just a few minutes following the official Christmas break, a still nearly empty Senate adjourned, deciding to renew budget deliberations only next Wednesday, the last day of the current Republican-controlled Congress.
That would take the government shutdown, already on its sixth day, into 12.
Both sides have dug in, with Democrats refusing to provide US$5 billion for Trump’s border wall project and the president insisting he will not fully fund the government unless he gets the money.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders accused Democrats of “openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people.”
She said “Trump will not sign a proposal that does not first prioritise our country’s safety and security.”
As long as the wall debate holds up approval of a wider spending bill, about 800,000 federal employees are not getting salaries and non-essential parts of the government are unable to function.
Trump made clear he does not intend to give way first.
In a tweet Thursday, he once more accused Democrats of wanting to encourage illegal immigrants, “an Open Southern Border and the large scale crime that comes with such stupidity!”
“Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members, Criminals from coming into our Country,” he said in another tweet, also lambasting “Democrat obstruction of the needed Wall.”
Opponents, including some in his Republican party, accuse the president of exaggerating
the danger from illegal immigration for his own political gain.
“No end in sight to the President’s government shutdown,” Dick Durbin, a senior Democratic senator, tweeted.
“He’s taken our government hostage over his outrageous demand for a US$5 billion border wall that would be both wasteful and ineffective.”
Partial government shutdowns are not an unusual weapon in Washington budget negotiations, where party divides make cooperation a rarity.
But the rancor has spiralled under Trump’s abrasive administration and is set to go even higher after Jan 3 when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, following
their midterm election victory. — AFP