US shutdown talks to resume, says Trump

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46772724

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Media captionPresident Trump said he was prepared to shut down the government for months or years

Talks to end the partial US federal government shutdown will resume on Sunday, President Donald Trump says, as the stalemate enters its third week.

Mr Trump tweeted there was “not much headway made” in talks with Democratic Party representatives on Saturday.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her party would introduce appropriation bills to try to reopen certain agencies.

About 800,000 federal workers have been without pay since 22 December.

The Republican president has refused to fully fund the government until he gets $5.6bn (£4.4bn) for a US-Mexico border wall.

Where are we with the talks?

Mr Trump sent out a downbeat tweet on the achievements of Saturday’s meeting between his team and Democratic Party representatives:

The leader of his team, Vice-President Mike Pence, was a little more positive, talking of a “productive discussion”:

The talks will resume on Sunday afternoon but with both sides apparently refusing to budge there is little sign of any breakthrough.

President Trump had earlier said he was prepared for the partial government shutdown to last months or even years. He also said he could declare a national emergency to build the proposed border wall without the approval of Congress.

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” the president said. “I don’t call it a shutdown, I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and safety of our country.”

The Democrats insist there will be no funding for the wall. New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called building the wall “an immorality”.

Is there any way out?

Both sides believe their core support backs their stance, so leeway is limited.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll suggested 50% blamed the president for the shutdown, while 32% saw the Democratic Party as culpable.

One idea that has been floated, reportedly by Trump adviser Jared Kushner at the meeting on Saturday, was to give the Democrats new measures on young immigrants called “Dreamers”, in exchange for the wall funding.

Dreamers are immigrants who illegally entered the US as children. Democrats want to ensure that they are shielded from deportation but have refused to link the issue with a deal on wall funding.

Some conservatives are also reportedly alarmed at any offer on the Dreamers.

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Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walk out of the West Wing

Ms Pelosi said after the failed talks on Saturday her party would introduce piecemeal bills aimed at reopening certain government agencies, starting with the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department.

“This action is necessary so that the American people can receive their tax refunds on schedule,” she said.

The bills may amount to little more than extra pressure on the president.

How did we get here?

Partial shutdowns occur when Congress cannot agree a budget by a certain deadline or the president refuses to sign it.

That happened on 22 December and a quarter of the government has been closed since, leaving some 800,000 workers either furloughed – a kind of temporary leave of absence – or working without pay.

The Senate had actually reached bipartisan agreement on a budget but Mr Trump then refused to back it, demanding the funding for the wall.

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Media captionThe return of the woman Republicans love to hate

The House then passed a bill including funding for the wall, when the Republicans still had a majority there, but they could not get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate.

When the Democrats took control of the new Congress this week, they passed spending bills to reopen the government. The leader of the Republican-controlled Senate, Mitch McConnell, immediately called the move “a time-wasting act of political posturing”.

In Friday’s news conference, Mr Trump told reporters he might consider asking his cabinet to decline a $10,000 pay rise that is due to take effect because a pay freeze has expired as an inadvertent result of the shutdown.

What is the shutdown and how is it affecting people?

Unpaid workers are clearly feeling the pinch.

Transport Security Administration employee Brian Turner told the BBC he might have to look for another job if the shutdown continued.

“We have a five-month-old son so we have about a month left before we’re going to have to start having those difficult conversations about what to do next,” he said.

Many workers, but by no means all, are likely to get back pay when the shutdown is resolved.

Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Saturday his agency had only a month’s funding left for some of its activities.

The shutdown means:

  • About 25% of the US federal government has no funding
  • Nine departments have been affected, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury
  • Native American tribes who receive substantial federal funding are struggling
  • National Parks have become hazardous without staff