Government Will Reopen Without Wall Funding as Democratic Pressure Pushes President Trump To End Fight
IBexclusive News Friday, January 25, 2019.
(IBEXNews) - President Trump finally agreed Friday to end the longest government shutdown in history without taxpayer funding for his long-promised border wall, caving to Democratic pressure and going back to square one without accomplishing anything.
With the federal shuttering in its 35th day, Trump announced in an address from the White House Rose Garden that he’s going to sign a wall-free temporary spending package that will release the 800,000 furloughed workers from their unpaid limbo — an option that congressional Democrats have asked for ever since the government ran out of cash on Dec. 22.
“I want to thank all of the incredible federal workers and their amazing families who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship,” Trump said. “You are fantastic people. You are incredible patriots.”
The path forward will bankroll the nine shuttered Cabinet departments and dozens of federal agencies through Feb. 15 on current spending levels.
Trump could have signed a near-identical deal that was passed on bipartisan lines by the Senate before the shutdown began.
But, after at first saying he would approve that measure, Trump refused it after being ridiculed by right-wing TV pundits. The longest shutdown in history ensued as a result, forcing workers to go without pay and hampering everything from FBI investigations to diplomatic programs, national parks, airport security and food stamps.
Among latest shutdown casualties were LaGuardia and Newark airports, where dozens of flights were grounded Friday morning after scores of unpaid air traffic controllers called out of work because of the shutdown.
Trump said in the Rose Garden speech he had asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put the spending package up for a vote “immediately,” all but ensuring that the government will reopen by the end of the day.
The President added he will see to it that the furloughed workers who have gone without paychecks for 35 days will receive back pay as soon as possible.
The plan will buy Congress three weeks to negotiate comprehensive full fiscal year funding without continuing to hold the paychecks of federal workers hostage.
But Trump explicitly threatened he will force the government to shut down again in three weeks if Congress doesn’t include his demanded $5.7 billion in wall cash — a request Democrats have called a “non-starter,” as they consider the very concept of a wall outdated and immoral.
If lawmakers don’t provide the barrier cash, Trump said he will likely circumvent Congress and declare a national emergency to allocate taxpayer funds for the border project he used to promise Mexico would pay for.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” the President said. “If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15th again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”
Legal experts disagree with Trump’s expansive view of executive power and say a national emergency declaration would all but certainly be challenged in court and likely struck down.
The fact that the White House has dangled the prospect of declaring national emergency for several weeks further undermines a potential legal case, according to Harvard University constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe.
“Did you notice Trump’s statement that he could’ve declared a national emergency but chose not to do so ‘at this time?’ Those words totally destroyed any ability he might’ve otherwise had to call Congress’s refusal to give him $5.7 billion for his wall in three weeks an ‘emergency,’” Tribe tweeted.
Democrats gave Trump's announcement a luke warm welcome.
“There is something absolutely pathetic about what has happened,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said from the Senate floor.
“Let us not forget for a second that five weeks ago the United States Senate unanimously, every Republican, every Democrat, voted for essentially the same legislation…Think of the suffering, the uncertainty, the pain that hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been forced to experience. That is a result of Trump's shutdown."
Republicans were more upbeat — at least for now.
“I think everybody’s relieved that the government’s getting back open,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), “but I think everyone’s still a bit tenuous because we’ve got a sword of Damocles hanging over us three weeks from now.”