Trump threatens ‘long’ gov’t shutdown over border wall dispute

US President Donald Trump threatened on Friday a “very long” government shutdown if he does not get the five billion dollars he requested to help build his proposed border wall

He called on the Senate to pass spending legislation with the border wall funds before the midnight deadline.

The Republican-led Senate had already approved funds for the government through February 8 without money for the wall. But Trump pushed Republican allies in the House to use the short-term funding bill as leverage to force through the border wall money despite Democratic objections. The Republican-led House passed their version of the bill, with more than five billion dollars in border wall funding, late on Thursday.

The pressure from Trump on Thursday came despite indications from the White House earlier in the week that the administration had found an alternative way to get the money needed for the wall. 

In a series of early morning tweets on Friday, Trump lashed out at Senate Democrats, and encouraged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, to attempt to change Senate rules, often called the “nuclear option”, to get the funding through. Trump has previously said he would be “proud” to shut down the government “for border security”. 

Republican senators are meeting the president Friday morning to discuss what options are available. 

Effects of partial shutdown 

The showdown added to tensions in Washington as politicians also grappled with Trump’s sudden move to pull troops from Syria, which prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign, and furthered concerns over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election that Trump won. 

Three-quarters of government programmes are fully funded through the end of the federal fiscal year next September 30, including those in the Defense Department, Labor Department and Health and Human Services.

But funding for other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Agriculture Department, is set to expire at midnight on Friday. A shutdown would leave a number of federal workers without a paycheck during the holidays.

If the House measure is put to a vote in the Senate, Democrats have pledged to deny it passage.

The Senate was set to convene at 17:00 GMT, and it remained unclear what would happen if the House measure fails there.

A partial government shutdown could begin, with affected agencies limiting staff to those deemed “essential” to public safety. Such critical workers, including US border agents, and nonessential employees would not get paid until the dispute ends. National parks also would close unless the government declares them essential.

Alternatively, legislators could seek a solution that Trump finds acceptable, although it was unclear what that would be. 

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump was “not going to back down on this fight” and would stay in Washington rather than go to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays as planned.

Asked how long any potential shutdown would last, Sanders said: “Let’s hope that that doesn’t have to happen.”

William Foster, vice president of Moody’s Investors Services, said that a “brief shutdown of the US government due to a budget impasse would cause minimal disruption to the economy”. 

Foster said in the case of a “protracted shutdown, credit implications would vary by sector”. 

Most Americans want Trump to compromise, polling suggests

Trump’s border wall was a key campaign promise in the 2016 election, when he said it would be paid for by Mexico, and sees it as a winning issue for his 2020 re-election campaign. 

But according to recent polling, most Americans want Trump to compromise on a border wall to avoid a possible shutdown.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll found that more than half (57 percent) of Americans believe the president should compromise on the wall to avoid a government shutdown. About 37 percent said he should not.

When examining just Republican responses, however, about two-thirds believe the president should not compromise.

In another poll by CBS, about 59 percent of Americans oppose building a wall along the southern border. The poll from mid-November, however, showed that 79 percent of Republicans supported building the wall. 

Democrats have said that funding for the border wall is a “non-starter” and have instead said they be willing to approve more than a billion dollars for less expensive border security measures, including fences.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on Friday said he hoped Trump would change course and support the Senate-passed bill, which includes funds for border security but not specifically for the wall.

“This is a fight more over message and the president trying to fulfil a campaign promise rather than substance,” Coons told CNN in an interview on Friday.

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