US president Donald Trump who dragged 800,000 government workers through a 35 day shutdown (without pay) and bragged that he would not "cave" finally did, re-opening the government for a temporary 3 week period even as public opinion against him has risen to new highs. In yet another rambling statement at the White House Rose Garden, Trump spoke about his pet subjects, painting a picture of America run over by illegal immigrants in a bid to distract from him folding on his wall demand in the new political reality of Democratic power in Washington.
Trump was at pains to frame his backtracking as him standing for his principles but it's clear to all that this is nothing but a political disaster for the US president. Trump's Friday performance was a rare sight at the famous Rose Garden, a place where US presidents usually don't accept defeat. Trump did, without saying it in so many words.
Overnight and into Friday at least five Republican senators had been calling Trump, urging him to reopen the government and have the Senate consider his request for border wall funds through regular legislation.
The burst of movement came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey were both experiencing at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday.
The world's busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.
Pressure has been building among both parties to reopen agencies immediately and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.
Monday is the start of federal tax filing season. But fewer than half of the furloughed IRS employees recalled during the shutdown to handle tax returns and send out refunds reported for work as of Tuesday, according to congressional and government aides. The employees had been told to work without pay.
Trump has long said that any short-term deal to end the shutdown must include a large down-payment for a border wall — an idea Pelosi and Schumer immediately rejected.
Meanwhile, the toll of the shutdown was being felt at airports across the countries. The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday reported delays in air travel because of a "slight increase in sick leave" at two East Coast air traffic control facilities. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump has been briefed on the airport delays and was monitoring the situation.
In an embarrassment to Trump, a Democratic proposal to reopen government got two more votes Thursday than the GOP plan, even though Republicans control the chamber 53-47. Six Republicans backed the Democratic plan, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who's clashed periodically with the president.
The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening the government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he's demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he'd long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.
Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to government workers who are either working without pay or being forced to stay home.
Thursday's votes came after Vice President Mike Pence lunched privately with restive GOP senators, who told him they were itching for the standoff to end, participants said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said their message to Pence was, "Find a way forward."
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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2019 01:17:32 IST