Govt shutdown be­comes long­est in US his­tory

If they can’t do it... I will de­clare a national emer­gency, I have the ab­so­lute right: Pres­i­dent Trump warns

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Washington, US - The par­tial US gov­ern­ment shutdown en­tered a record 22nd day on Satur­day, as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­mains stead­fast in his de­mand for US$5.7bn to build a Mex­ico bor­der wall and Democrats in Congress de­ter­mined to refuse the funds.

The im­passe has paral­ysed Washington, with the Pres­i­dent re­tal­i­at­ing by re­fus­ing to sign off on bud­gets for swaths of gov­ern­ment de­part­ments un­re­lated to the dis­pute.

As a re­sult 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees - work­ers as di­verse as FBI agents, air traf­fic con­trollers and mu­seum staff - did not re­ceive pay­checks on Fri­day.

The shutdown be­came the long­est on record at mid­night on Fri­day (0500 GMT Satur­day), when it over­took the 21-day stretch in 1995-1996, un­der pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Trump on Fri­day how­ever backed off a se­ries of pre­vi­ous threats to end the dead­lock by declar­ing a national emer­gency and at­tempt­ing to se­cure the funds with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval.

“I’m not go­ing to do it so fast,” he said at a White House meet­ing.

Trump de­scribed an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion as the ‘easy way out’ and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of ap­prov­ing the US$5.7bn.

“If they can’t do it... I will de­clare a national emer­gency. I have the ab­so­lute right,” he said.

Un­til now, Trump had sug­gested nu­mer­ous times that he was get­ting closer to tak­ing the con­tro­ver­sial decision.

Only min­utes ear­lier, pow­er­ful Repub­li­can ally Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham tweeted after talks with Trump, ‘Mr Pres­i­dent, De­clare a national emer­gency NOW’.

But Trump him­self ac­knowl­edged in the White House meet­ing that an at­tempt to claim emer­gency pow­ers would likely end up in le­gal bat­tles go­ing all the way to the Supreme Court.

Op­po­nents say that a uni­lat­eral pres­i­den­tial move would be con­sti­tu­tional over­reach and set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent in sim­i­lar con­tro­ver­sies.

The stand­off has turned into a test of po­lit­i­cal ego, par­tic­u­larly for Trump, who came into of­fice boast­ing of his deal-mak­ing pow­ers and mak­ing an ag­gres­sive bor­der policy the key­stone of his na­tion­al­ist agenda.

Democrats, mean­while, seem de­ter­mined at all costs to pre- vent a Pres­i­dent who rel­ishes cam­paign rally chants of ‘build the wall!’ from get­ting a win.

Both Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans agree that the US-Mex­i­can bor­der presents ma­jor chal­lenges, rang­ing from the vi­o­lent Mex­i­can drug trade to the plight of asy­lum seek­ers and poor mi­grants seeking new lives in the world’s rich­est coun­try. There’s also lit­tle de­bate that bor­der walls are needed: About a third of the fron­tier is already fenced off.

But Trump has turned his sin­gle-minded push for more walls into a po­lit­i­cal cru­sade seen by op­po­nents as a stunt to stoke xeno­pho­bia in his rightwing voter base, while wil­fully ig­nor­ing the bor­der’s com­plex re­al­i­ties.

For Trump, who vis­ited the Texas bor­der with Mex­ico on Thurs­day, the bor­der sit­u­a­tion amounts to an in­va­sion by crim­i­nals that can only be solved by more walls.

“We have a coun­try that’s un­der siege,” he said.

Some stud­ies show that il­le­gal im­mi­grants gen­er­ally com­mit fewer crimes than peo­ple born in the United States, although not ev­ery­one agrees on this.

More cer­tain is that while nar­cotics do en­ter the coun­try across re­mote sec­tions of the bor­der, most are sneaked through heav­ily guarded check­points in ve­hi­cles, the gov­ern­ment’s own Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion said in a re­port.

Nancy Pelosi, the Demo­cratic leader in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said money should be spent on bor­der se­cu­rity but not on walls.


Pro­test­ers hold signs dur­ing a rally by gov­ern­ment work­ers and cit­i­zens against the gov­ern­ment shutdown, in Bos­ton on Fri­day

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