US government shutdown: No end in sight | News | DW | 23.12.2018
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US government shutdown: No end in sight

US President Donald Trump canceled his holiday plans to stay in Washington as Democrats continue to reject his border wall funding demand. The US Senate will not meet until after Christmas.

The partial shutdown of the US government is set to continue for at least five days, as lawmakers in the Senate did not make progress on Saturday on the impasse over funding for President Donald Trump's border wall.

The shutdown, on the eve of the Christmas holiday break, is the third since the president took office less than two years ago. It comes at a difficult time for the White House, amid the recent departure of former Chief of Staff John Kelly and the surprise resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Trump triggered the shutdown when he refused to sign a short-term budget bill because it did not include $5.7 billion (€5 billion) in funding for a border wall with Mexico.

Despite lacking the Senate votes required to pass the bill, the president doubled down on what he called a campaign promise that got him elected.

"I am in the White House, working hard," the president tweeted Saturday morning. "The crisis of illegal activity at our Southern Border is real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall," he said in another tweet.

Trump was supposed to fly to Florida on Friday to spend Christmas with his family at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But due to the political turmoil, he will spend the holidays in Washington, with his family flying back to the capital from West Palm Beach, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Read more: Opinion: Jim Mattis' exit leaves Donald Trump surrounded by yes-men

Senators go home for Christmas

The Senate held a session on Saturday afternoon. But lawmakers said no progress was reached and some hours later, the session was adjourned.

"The Senate will next meet for a pro forma session on Monday, that's the 24th. The next scheduled session day will be on the 27th of December," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said on the Senate floor, confirming that no votes will take place for another five days.

"Listen, anything can happen," McConnell told reporters after he closed the Senate session. Republican leaders have sought to stay largely in the background of the negotiations, with McConnell saying that any deal to reopen government would require a resolution between the president and Democrats.

Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee that handles budgetary matters, said a quick end to the shutdown was "not probable."

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Democrats dig in

Democrats have stuck to their position, reiterating that they have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security, but that they would not vote in favor of new funding for Trump's wall plans, which they called costly and ineffective.

Vice President Mike Pence went to Capitol Hill on Saturday to personally deliver a new offer to Democrats. The meeting, however, was unsuccessful.

Senate Democratic Party leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged the encounter but said in a statement that the two sides still remained "very far apart." 

Schumer said the "Trump shutdown" could end immediately if Trump simply dropped his demand for money to build a wall on the US-Mexican border.

"If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall," he said.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become speaker, sent a letter to colleagues on Saturday saying that "until President Trump can publicly commit to a bipartisan resolution, there will be no agreement before January when the new House Democratic Majority will swiftly pass legislation to re-open government."

jcg/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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