Bill on U.S. fed­eral work­ers’ back pay heads to Trump

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - CATHERINE LUCEY, LISA MASCARO AND ZEKE MILLER

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is edg­ing closer to declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to pay for his long-promised U.S.Mex­ico bor­der wall as pres­sure mounts to end the three-week im­passe that has closed parts of the gov­ern­ment and de­prived hun­dreds of thou­sands of work­ers of their salaries.

Some 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees, more than half still on the job, were due to miss their first pay­cheque Fri­day un­der a stop­page that neared a record for the long­est gov­ern­ment shut­down. With the clo­sure’s grow­ing im­pact on the econ­omy, na­tional parks and food in­spec­tions, some Repub­li­cans are be­com­ing un­com­fort­able with Trump’s de­mands. Law­mak­ers tried to re­as­sure fed­eral em­ploy­ees on Fri­day that Congress was aware of the fi­nan­cial hard­ship they are en­dur­ing. By a vote of 411-7, the House passed a bill re­quir­ing that all gov­ern­ment work­ers re­ceive retroac­tive pay af­ter the par­tial shut­down ends. The Se­nate ap­proved the bill unan­i­mously Thurs­day. The pres­i­dent was ex­pected to sign the leg­is­la­tion.

Trump vis­ited McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande on Thurs­day to high­light what he calls a cri­sis of drugs and crime along the bor­der. He said that “if for any rea­son we don’t get this go­ing” — an agree­ment with House Democrats who have re­fused to ap­prove the $5.7 bil­lion he de­mands for the wall — “I will de­clare a na­tional emer­gency.”

Trump was con­sult­ing with White House lawyers and oth­ers about us­ing emer­gency pow­ers, and over the ob­jec­tions of Congress, to con­struct the wall. By­pass­ing Congress’s con­sti­tu­tional con­trol of the na­tion’s purse strings would lead to cer­tain le­gal chal­lenges. Trump said his lawyers had told him the ac­tion would with­stand le­gal scru­tiny “100 per cent.”

The wall was the cen­tral prom­ise of Trump’s win­ning cam­paign in 2016. Sup­port­ers have tried to con­vince him that an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion is the best op­tion to end the shut­down and would give him po­lit­i­cal cover to re­open the gov­ern­ment with­out ap­pear­ing to be cav­ing on his pledge.

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