More time for deal: Trump

US leader says he wants to give Democrats more time, chance to ‘act re­spon­si­bly’

The Straits Times - - BRIEFING -

United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said yes­ter­day that he was hold­ing off on declar­ing a state of emer­gency to end the par­tial US gov­ern­ment shut­down. This is to give the op­po­si­tion Democrats more time to strike a deal with him amid an im­passe over his de­mand for fund­ing to build a US-Mex­ico bor­der wall.

WASH­ING­TON • United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he was hold­ing off on declar­ing a state of emer­gency to end the par­tial US gov­ern­ment shut­down that dragged into a 23rd day yes­ter­day, as he in­sisted on US$5.7 bil­lion (S$7.7 bil­lion) to build a Mex­ico bor­der wall that con­gres­sional Democrats op­pose.

Asked by Fox News why he did not im­me­di­ately de­clare a na­tional emer­gency to se­cure the funds with­out con­gres­sional ap­proval, Mr Trump said he wanted to give op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic law­mak­ers more time to strike a deal.

“I want to give them the chance to see if they can act re­spon­si­bly,” he told Fox in an in­ter­view late last Satur­day.

The US gov­ern­ment shut­down be­came the long­est on record at mid­night last Fri­day, when it over­took a 21-day stretch in 1995-1996 un­der then Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Mr Trump fired off a se­ries of tweets last Satur­day in an ef­fort to de­fend his stance and goad Democrats to re­turn to Wash­ing­ton and end what he called “the mas­sive hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis at our South­ern Bor­der”.

“Democrats could solve the shut­down in 15 min­utes!” he said in one tweet, adding in an­other: “We will be out for a long time un­less the Democrats come back from their ‘va­ca­tions’ and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!”

The im­passe has paral­ysed Wash­ing­ton, its im­pact felt in­creas­ingly around the coun­try, with the Pres­i­dent re­fus­ing to sign off on bud­gets for swathes of gov­ern­ment de­part­ments un­re­lated to the dis­pute.

As a re­sult, about 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing FBI agents and air-traf­fic con­trollers, re­ceived no pay cheques last Fri­day.

At least one ma­jor air­port has had to tem­po­rar­ily shut­ter a con­course be­cause of staffing is­sues re­lated to the shut­down.

Oth­ers are open­ing food pantries to sup­port the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion (TSA) em­ploy­ees work­ing with­out pay.

Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port closed one of its con­courses for half the day last Satur­day. Air­port of­fi­cials said they plan to do the same yes­ter­day and to­day out of con­cerns that they would not have enough em­ploy­ees to op­er­ate all the se­cu­rity check­points.

Air­port spokesman Greg Chin said the de­ci­sion to close some parts was a “pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure to op­ti­mise staffing” dur­ing peak times, when large num­bers of cruise-line pas­sen­gers leave the city.

Ac­cord­ing to TSA sta­tis­tics, air­ports across the coun­try are also fac­ing staffing short­ages.

After sev­eral news out­lets pub­lished sto­ries fea­tur­ing long lines at air­port se­cu­rity, the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity pushed back, call­ing the re­port­ing “fake news”.

Of­fi­cials say there have been no ma­jor de­lays and no im­pact on na­tional se­cu­rity.

Op­po­nents say a uni­lat­eral pres­i­den­tial move like declar­ing emer­gency would be con­sti­tu­tional over­reach and set a dan­ger­ous prece- dent in sim­i­lar con­tro­ver­sies.

Mr Trump pushed back last Satur­day on a me­dia re­port that his White House was “chaotic” with no plan or strat­egy to end the shut­down.

To un­der­stand the plan, “you would have to un­der­stand the fact that I won the elec­tion and I promised... a wall at the South­ern Bor­der. Elec­tions have con­se­quences”, he tweeted.

Ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton PostABC News poll, more Amer­i­cans, by a wide mar­gin, blame Mr Trump and Repub­li­cans in Con­gress than con­gres­sional Democrats for the now record-break­ing gov­ern­ment shut­down. Most also re­ject the Pres­i­dent’s as­ser­tion that there is an il­le­gal-im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis on the south­ern bor­der.

Sup­port for build­ing a wall on the bor­der, which is the prin­ci­pal stick­ing point in the stale­mate be­tween the Pres­i­dent and Democrats, has in­creased over the past year. To­day, 42 per cent say they sup­port a wall, up from 34 per cent in Jan­uary last year. A slight ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans, 54 per cent, op­pose the idea, down from 63 per cent a year ago.

The poll was con­ducted from last Tues­day to Fri­day among a random na­tional sam­ple of 788 Amer­i­cans.

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