US government shutdown set to continue as White House talks fail

US government shutdown set to continue as White House talks fail
By Alasdair Sandford
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Donald Trump and congressional party leaders made no progress over resolving a federal shutdown that has left workers unpaid and sites closed.


A US partial government shutdown over funding for President Trump's Mexican border wall is set to enter its thirteenth day.

Democratic and Republican leaders failed to break the deadlock, after being invited to the White House for a “border security briefing” at which officials from the Trump administration made a case for the wall.

Democrats are holding their ground as President Trump makes it clear that he will not budge from his $5 billion demand to fund the project.

The impasse leaves hundreds of thousands of US federal employees in a state of limbo – either on unpaid leave or working without pay.

About a quarter of federal government is not being funded, affecting nine departments and some 800,000 workers.

  • Public sites including major tourist attractions have run out of emergency funding. In Washington DC nearly 20 museums have closed, as has a city zoo – although the animals are still being cared for.

  • National parks have remained open, unlike during previous shutdowns, with volunteers helping out. However, services have been curtailed. Rubbish has been piling up, and campsites have been closed due to a lack of waste removal services.

  • The immigration court system – which already has a backlog of some 800,000 cases – is largely closed, affecting more than 60 tribunals. Only cases involving immigrants in detention are being heard.

  • Science labs are not carrying out experiments, causing research projects to be delayed. Native American communities are not receiving federal funds and have had to dig into their own reserves.

The Democrats take control of the House of Representatives as of Thursday. They have made proposals to reopen the government.

This includes an offer to devote $1.3 billion to border security via the Department of Homeland Security – but for surveillance and fencing, not the president’s wall project. The party has also pledged money to keep other agencies and departments open until September.

Donald Trump, however, has rejected the moves. The White House has called the proposal a “non-starter”, while the president – who has described his pet project as “beautiful” – said last month he would be “proud” to shut down the government in his drive to bring it to fruition.

Democrats say they will go ahead with a vote on their proposals, but the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not do so as they have no chance of being passed.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said that Republicans are “feeling the heat” over the shutdown. At least one opinion poll has suggested that more people blame the president than they do the Democrats.

A major standoff is in the making, with both sides digging in and neither prepared at this stage to lose face. For Trump, the border wall was a flagship campaign promise. For the Democrats, boosted by their midterm election success, backing down is not on the cards.

Some observers believe it may be some time yet before public pressure mounts to force a compromise.

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