WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he has reached a deal with congressional leaders to reopen the US federal government after a record-breaking 34-day shutdown.
The deal paves the way for a temporary three-week reopening during which Trump aides will negotiate a deal with Democrats opposing his plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” President Trump said in remarks from the White House Rose Garden. “As everyone knows I have a very powerful alternative but I’m not going to use it at this time.”
US lawmakers, who negotiated the deal, however, told various US news networks that the pact does not include funds for building the wall. President Trump, a Republican, had previously vowed to reject any deal that did not include $5.7 billion to fund the wall, his signature campaign pledge.
Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, flatly refused to provide funds for the wall which, they argue, negates key American values. Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump said the agreement would fund the government until Feb 15, allowing “incredibly patriot” federal employees to receive “full back-pay”.
On Friday, the 35th day of the shutdown, some 800,000 American civil servants missed another payday amid the five-week impasse.
The shutdown affected millions of people across America. Hundreds of flights were grounded or delayed as air traffic controllers were not paid.
Thousands of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees failed to show up after they were ordered to return to work unpaid.
At the Securities and Exchange Commission, more than 4,000 staff members were furloughed. The Federal Trade Commission was shuttered.
Startups in Silicon Valley were unable to issue initial public offerings (IPOs). Private firms on Wall Street stopped processing IPOs. The Small Business Administration stopped approving routine small-business loans.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) complained that it failed to pay its sources. Joint Terrorism Task Force officers could not get into the bureau’s computer systems. And federal investigations were stymied by a lack of resources.
The shutdown also affected the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, furloughing most of their workforce and limiting them to essential operations only.
CNN reported that Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer played a key role in arranging the compromise, holding direct talks with the White House over finalising the deal’s language.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2019