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Trump, lawmakers fail to agree how to end partial gov’t shutdown

Reporters follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (c) as he walks through the US Capitol after meeting with President Donald Trump (not shown) in the White House on Jan. 2, 2019. EFE-EPA / JIM LO SCALZO

Reporters follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (c) as he walks through the US Capitol after meeting with President Donald Trump (not shown) in the White House on Jan. 2, 2019. EFE-EPA / JIM LO SCALZO

EFE

President Donald Trump and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders ended their White House meeting on Wednesday without making tangible progress on how to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 12th day.

“I don’t think any particular progress was made today,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after the meeting. “But we talked about all aspects of it, and it was a civil discussion and we’re hopeful that somehow in the coming days and weeks we’ll be able to reach an agreement.”

Trump warned before the meeting that he will keep the government partially shut down for as long as necessary, that is - apparently - until Democrats give in to his previous demands for financing his much-touted border wall with Mexico.

At the White House meeting, Democratic leaders asked Trump to immediately reopen the portions of the government that are currently shut down, leaving the discussion about border security - the reason why Trump ostensibly called the meeting in the first place - for later.

The likely incoming speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi , said upon leaving the meeting that the Democratic lawmakers’ aim is “to end the partial government shutdown tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow we will bring to the floor legislation that will open up government. It will be based on actions taken by the Republican Senate - led by Sen. Mitch McConnell,” Pelosi said, making reference to a Senate bill that passed but did not include wall funding.

Pelosi said that approving the Democrats’ bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 would give lawmakers and Trump 30 additional days to negotiate regarding allocating funds for US border security without the need to keep the government partially shut down and some 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal workers idled.

“We asked the president to support the bills that we support to open up government,” added Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer , noting that he had asked Trump to give “one good reason” for continuing the shutdown if lawmakers were discussing border security with the expectation of finding a mutually agreeable solution.

“He could not give a good answer,” Schumer said.

The government has been partially shut down since Dec. 22 after negotiations between Republican and Democratic lawmakers reached an impasse because of Trump’s demand that the budget bill include more than $5 billion for construction of the wall, which the Democrats regard as anathema and against American values.

Both the White House and McConnell rejected the Democratic proposal and Trump called another White House meeting for Friday with leaders of both parties to pursue the matter.

Pelosi and Schumer criticized Trump’s stance for holding the country “hostage” to his demand that more funds be approved for his wall, one of his key 2016 election campaign promises and something that he views as a “winning” issue with his base.

Despite the fact that Trump remains firm in his intention to keep the government partially closed if he does not get funds for the wall, the president insisted on Wednesday that Mexico is paying for the construction of the border barrier via the USMCA free trade treaty concluded last year to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement .

“Mexico is paying for the Wall through the new USMCA Trade Deal. Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built. We have done a lot of work,” Trump claimed on Wednesday on Twitter.

However, that trade agreement still has not been approved by the US Congress and, thus, it has not entered into force.

The partial shutdown affects 10 government departments, including Transportation and Justice, as well as dozens of national parks, which are normally big tourist attractions and government revenue earners.

The paralysis also affects about 38 percent of the federal workforce, who will not receive paychecks as long as their departments and agencies are closed due to lack of approved funding.


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