Trump tweets into the void as shutdown breaks record
WASHINGTON — As the US partial government shutdown slipped into the record books on Saturday, members of Congress had left town, no negotiations were scheduled and President Donald Trump tweeted into the void.
He did not tip his hand on whether he will move ahead with an emergency declaration that could break the impasse, free up money for his wall without congressional approval and kick off legal challenges and a political storm over the use of that extraordinary step. A day earlier, he said he was not ready to do it “right now”.
Lawmakers are due back in Washington from their states and congressional districts in the new week.
Trump fired off a series of tweets pushing back against the notion that he doesn’t have a strategy to end what became the longest government shutdown in US history when it entered its 22nd day on Saturday. “Elections have consequences!” he declared, meaning the 2016 election in which “I promised safety and security” and, as part of that, a border wall.
Trump also said he has “no idea” whether he can get a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opposes spending money on an “ineffective, wasteful wall”.
The president is expected in the new week to sign legislation passed by Congress to provide back pay for about 800,000 federal workers who aren’t being paid during the shutdown. Paychecks were due Friday, but many workers received stubs with zeros.
Almost half of the State Department employees in the US and about one-quarter abroad have been furloughed during the shutdown.
“This is really an inflection point,” a furloughed employee of the Department of Homeland Security said earlier this week. He joined hundreds of people like him at a rally north of the White House to urge an end to the shutdown.
“People are not getting their paychecks, and the hardship is really going to set in for many of the families,” he said on the condition of anonymity. “I just want to say that American federal workers are ready to work, and they shouldn’t be caught in the middle.”
An emergency declaration by Trump could break the stalemate by letting him use existing, unspent money to build the US-Mexico border wall, without needing congressional approval. Democrats oppose that step but may be unable to stop it. Many Republicans are wary, too.
Trump has been counseled by outside advisers to move toward declaring a national emergency for the “crisis” that he says exists at the southern border. This, as polls suggest Trump is getting most of the blame for the shutdown.
But some in the White House are trying to apply the brakes. Jared Kushner was among those opposed to the declaration, arguing to his father-in-law that pursuing a broader immigration deal was a better option.
Pelosi argued that Trump is merely trying to steer attention away from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and other White House problems. “This is a big diversion, and he’s a master of diversion,” she told reporters.
Trump has told advisers he believes the fight for the wall, even if he never gets money for it, is a political win for him.