‘Democrats must co-op­er­ate’

The Herald (South Africa) - - World -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said on Sun­day he was hold­ing off on declar­ing a state of emer­gency to end the par­tial US gov­ern­ment shut­down that dragged into a 23rd day, as he in­sisted on $5.7bn (R89bn) 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, Trump said he wanted to give op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors more time to strike a deal.

“I want to give them the chance to see if they can act re­spon­si­bly,” he told Fox.

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

Trump fired off a se­ries of tweets on 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!”

But most law­mak­ers left town on Fri­day and will not re­turn be­fore Mon­day, leav­ing lit­tle chance for any so­lu­tion to the stale­mate be­fore then.

The im­passe has paral­ysed Wash­ing­ton – its ef­fect 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, 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees – in­clud­ing FBI agents, air traf­fic con­trollers and mu­seum staff – re­ceived no pay on Fri­day.

At a White House meet­ing on Fri­day, Trump de­scribed an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion as the easy way out and said Con­gress had to step up to the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ap­prov­ing fund­ing for the wall.

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

Trump, how­ever, ac­knowl­edged that such a move would prob­a­bly trig­ger a le­gal bat­tle end­ing in the Supreme Court.

He pushed back on 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 that I won the elec­tion, and I promised a Wall at the South­ern Bor­der.

“Elec­tions have con­se­quences!” Trump tweeted.

Both Democrats and Repub­li­cans agree that the US-Mex­i­can bor­der presents chal­lenges, but Trump has turned his sin­gle-minded push for more walls into a cru­sade that op­po­nents say is a stunt to stoke xeno­pho­bia in his right-wing voter base.

For the pres­i­dent, who vis­ited the Texas bor­der with Mex­ico on Thurs­day, the bor­der sit­u­a­tion amounts to an in­va­sion by crim­i­nals.

Only in re­cent days has he be­gun de­scrib­ing the prob­lem as “hu­man­i­tar­ian”.

The gov­ern­ment shut­down be­came the long­est on record on Fri­day

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