Trump rejects Republican senator's proposal to reopen government temporarily

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U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected a proposal from a Republican ally in the Senate that he temporarily reopen closed parts of the government to allow resumption of negotiations on a funding standoff.

As he left the White House for a trip to Louisiana, Trump told reporters he did not agree with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposal to reopen the government for three weeks.

Graham, who is chairperson of the Senate judiciary committee, said he urged the president on Sunday to reopen the government for a limited period to try to get talks going again. He said Trump should declare a national emergency to seek funding for his border wall with Mexico if the reopening failed to sway the Dem​ocrats.

“Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option — and I think we are almost there — I would urge them to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal,” Graham said on Fox News Sunday.

However, he said Trump told him, “let’s make a deal, then open up the government.”

Declaring a national emergency over immigration issues is fiercely opposed by Democrats and remains unpopular with some Republicans. It also would likely face an immediate legal challenge.

The shutdown entered its 24th day on Monday but Trump appeared unmoved to act, retweeting criticism of House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and urging top Democratic leaders to negotiate with him over funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats have rejected Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the border wall in addition to other border funds but have said they would support $1.3 billion to bolster border security in other ways, including beefing up the number of Border Patrol agents and increasing surveillance.

Blame game

About one-quarter of the U.S. government shut down last month, while Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. In December Trump said he would take responsibility for the shutdown but has since shifted the blame to Democrats.

He now must win concessions from the Democrats, who took over the U.S. House of Representatives this month following November’s elections. He also must win over enough Senate Democrats to secure the 60 votes needed to pass funding legislation there.

Travellers wait near a closed down terminal at the Miami International Airport on Saturday. The partial government shutdown is starting to strain the aviation system. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

The stress from the shutdown became more visible as 800,000 federal employees across the United States missed their first paychecks on Friday. The cut government services also affected travelers as a jump in unscheduled absences among federal airport security screeners forced partial closures of airports in Houston and Miami.

National parks also remain shuttered, food and drug inspections have been curtailed and key economic data is on hold, among other impacts. Federal courts are set to run out of money on Friday.

Later on Monday, Trump was scheduled to address a New Orleans gathering of farmers, a key bloc of Trump supporters who have been hit by the shutdown as federal loan and farm aid applications have stalled and key farming and crop data has been delayed.

Awaiting Congress

Pelosi called on the Republican-led Senate to vote on several bills passed earlier this month by the House to fund affected departments that do not include money for Trump’s wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not take up any legislation that does not have Trump’s support.

Representatives for Schumer could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

Both the Senate and the House were scheduled to reconvene on Monday afternoon, despite a weekend winter storm that closed much of the Washington area, and it remained unclear what, if any, steps lawmakers might take to address the lapsed funding measures for affected agencies.

Sen. Chris Coons on Monday reiterated fellow Democrats’ call for Trump to reopen the government while negotiations over the wall and immigration continue.

He acknowledged efforts by Graham and other Republicans to forge a temporary solution but said Trump has been unpredictable even among fellow conservatives with ever-shifting positions.

“Every time they make progress, the president throws cold water on it,” Coons told CNN in an interview.


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