US govt shutdown continues over Trump's wall fund demand

There is little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the stand-off before the new Congress convenes on Jan 3, 2019.
There is little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the stand-off before the new Congress convenes on Jan 3, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • The partial US government shutdown entered its second week yesterday, with nearly 14,000 workers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) going on furlough and Coast Guard service members missing their final pay cheques of 2018.

There has been no sign of progress towards ending President Donald Trump's stand-off with Democrats over funding for a wall at the US-Mexico border.

The Smithsonian said all museums, research centres and the National Zoo will close starting on Wednesday unless the shutdown ends. Also affected will be the popular National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of African American History & Culture on the National Mall in Washington, and the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York.

The EPA used funds already on hand to continue operations for a week, but was set to exhaust those. Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said that without new funds by midnight Friday, employees would be put on furlough and travel would be cancelled.

Coast Guard members will miss their pay cheques because, unlike other US military branches, it is under the Department of Homeland Security. The Defence Department is not affected by the shutdown.

There is little indication of any imminent agreement to resolve the stand-off before the new Congress convenes on Thursday.

Mr Trump is demanding US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) for the wall, while Democratic leaders have proposed US$1.3 billion for border security.

The Senate and House are set to hold brief sessions tomorrow but no votes are scheduled.

Mr Trump tweeted last Friday that he would completely close the border with Mexico unless Democrats provide money for the wall and change immigration laws.

If the stand-off continues, all workers in the nine departments and dozens of agencies affected by the closure will miss their next pay cheque on Jan 11.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have been negotiating with the Trump administration. Once they reach agreement, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he will seek a vote on the deal.

 
 

Democrats take control of the House on Thursday, when Ms Nancy Pelosi, who is in line to become Speaker, has said the chamber will pass a spending Bill to reopen the government - without money for a wall.

The shutdown, which began on Dec 22, affects nine of the 15 federal departments, dozens of agencies as well as hundreds of thousands of workers.

Among the departments without funding are: Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Treasury. An estimated 400,000 federal employees are working without pay and 350,000 are furloughed, according to a congressional Democratic aide.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 30, 2018, with the headline 'US govt shutdown continues over Trump's wall fund demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe