Risk of US govt shutdown eases with Trump's wall retreat

Protestors in front of the Trump Building in New York City on March 28, 2017.
Protestors in front of the Trump Building in New York City on March 28, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • The threat of a US government shutdown this weekend appears to have receded after President Donald Trump backed away from a demand that Congress include funding for his planned border wall with Mexico in a short- term spending Bill.

But even if the fight over wall funding is over, Republicans and Democrats still have difficult issues to resolve as they face tomorrow night's deadline when existing money expires for many federal agencies.

Some lawmakers said they would need to pass a short-term extension of current spending, possibly of one week's duration, in order to finish negotiating longer-term legislation for funding the government through the end of September. But on Tuesday night, some leading Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate expressed optimism that Congress could pass the longer-term Bill and avoid having to rely on another temporary extension of last year's funding levels.

"We're really close," said Republican Representative Mario Diaz- Balart, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

If no spending measure is in place before 12:01am on Saturday, government funds will halt and hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be temporarily laid off.

Mr Trump removed a crucial sticking point when he said on Monday that he may wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the fiscal year starting Oct 1 to seek funding for the wall, a signature election pledge.

Passing the Bill needs some Democrat votes in the Senate, although Democratic leaders had said they would not support a Bill that included funds for the wall.

If no spending measure covering April 29 to Sept 30 is in place before 12:01am on Saturday, government funds will halt and hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be temporarily laid off.

Mr Trump had run the risk of being blamed by Democrats for a shutdown, which would start on his 100th day in office.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'Risk of US govt shutdown eases with Trump's wall retreat'. Print Edition | Subscribe