The longest shutdown in US history
lasted 35 days and cost the country’s economy an estimated $11 billion.
Details have yet to be released but
aides familiar with the negotiations say it includes $1.375 billion in funding
for 55 miles of new fencing at the border, a small part of the more than 2,000
miles promised by President Trump.
The wall would be built in the Rio
Grande Valley, in Texas, using existing designs, such as metal slats, instead
of the concrete wall that Donald Trump had demanded.
According to recent reports, there
was also an agreement to reduce the number of beds in detention centers to
40,250 from the current 49,057.
The talks had reached an impasse earlier with Republicans strongly rejecting
Democrats’ demands for a limit to the number of undocumented migrants already
in the US who could be detained by immigration authorities.
Republican Senator Richard Shelby said on February 11: “We got an agreement on all of it.
“Our staffs are going to be
working feverishly to put all the particulars together. We believe that if this
becomes law, it’ll keep open the government.”
However, by yesterday, some of President Trump’s conservative allies had
already denounced the deal, with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity calling it a
House Freedom Caucus leader Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said the agreement failed “to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs”.
Congress has voted to pass a two-year budget, meaning the US’s second shutdown in three weeks could end before the working day begins.
The Senate and the House have passed the measures, but still need to be signed off by President Donald Trump.
Federal funding for government services expired at midnight on February 8, after the Senate missed a voting deadline.
The 650-page plan proposes an increase in spending, by about $300 billion, on defense and domestic services.
Senators struggled with last-minute objections from Republican Rand Paul, meaning they did not vote in time. The shutdown came within three weeks of the last one, as lawmakers wrangle over the spending plan and other political demands on either side.
The House approved the bill by 240 votes to 186. The Senate had passed it by 71 to 28 three hours earlier.
Paul Ryan said the bill was “a great victory for our men and women in uniform” as the military would get more resources.
The House Speaker said: “Ultimately, neither side got everything it wanted in this agreement, but we reached a bipartisan compromise that puts the safety and wellbeing of the American people first.”
While the spending bill’s funding for the Pentagon delighted the national security wing of the party, fiscal conservatives were concerned about ramifications for the nation’s debt.
The 650-page spending plan was only unveiled on February 8, so the finer details are still unclear.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the package would increase spending by “just shy” of $300 billion.
The bill contains $165 billion of additional defense spending and $131 billion in domestic spending, including funding for healthcare, infrastructure and tackling the US opioid crisis, reports Reuters news agency.
The proposal would raise the US debt ceiling until March 2019.
If not, hundreds of thousands of federal workers face the prospect of no work and shuttered offices at the start of the working week.
The last government shutdown was in 2013, and lasted for 16 days.
This is the first time a government shutdown has happened while one party, the Republicans, controls both Congress and the White House.
The January 19 vote was 50-49, falling far short of the 60 needed to advance the bill. With a 51-seat majority in the Senate, the Republicans did not have enough seats to pass the bill without some support from the Democrats.
They want funding for border security – including the border wall – and immigration reforms, as well as increased military spending.
The Democrats have demanded protection from deportation of more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children.
The Republicans added a sweetener in the form of a six-year extension to a health insurance program for children in lower-income families. However, Democrats want this program extended permanently.
President Trump accused the Democrats of being “far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border”.
However, the leading Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, blamed the president, saying President Trump was under pressure from “hard-right forces within the administration”.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders warned: “The president will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government.”
The US budget must be approved by October 1 – the start of the federal financial year.
However, Congress has often failed to meet this deadline and negotiations continue well into the new year, with the previous year’s funding to federal agencies extended on a temporary basis.
Because Congress failed to agree an extension that would have maintained government funding through to February 16, it means many federal agencies effectively closed for business as of 00:01 on January 20.
Most staff in the departments of housing, environment, education and commerce will be staying at home on January 22. Half of workers in the treasury, health, defense and transportation departments will also not be going to work.
The US shutdown negotiations have been shifted to the Senate.
The Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate held direct talks for the first time in weeks, but there is little sign of any breakthrough, correspondents say.
The shutdown began when Congress missed the October 1st deadline to pass a budget.
The US faces another deadline on Thursday to raise its debt limit.
If a deal is not reached by then, the US faces potential default, a prospect which has caused alarm both domestically and abroad.
Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, said the aim was to reach a deal on extending the debt limit before markets reopen on Monday.
The talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell earlier on Saturday represented the first face-to-face meeting between the two since July, the New York Times reported.
“The conversations were extremely cordial but very preliminary of course – nothing conclusive, but I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and to the world,” said Harry Reid.
The US shutdown negotiations have been shifted to the Senate
“We had a good meeting,” said Mitch McConnell, without elaborating.
Harry Reid then went to the White House for talks with President Barack Obama.
But he rejected a plan put forward by Republican Senator Susan Collins to allow the government to increase its debt limit until January 31st, 2014.
Democrats have a majority in the Senate, but could not muster enough support to advance a proposal to lift the debt ceiling there.
Talks between House Republicans and the White House had collapsed earlier.
Republicans have refused to pass a new budget unless President Barack Obama agrees to delay or eliminate the funding of the healthcare reform law of 2010.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have been sent home as a result of the shutdown.
The White House has repeatedly said it would not undermine the law, known as Obamacare, nor negotiate over larger budget matters, until Republicans vote to end the threat of default.
It has also rejected a short-term deal over the debt limit.
“It wouldn’t be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple of months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season,” President Barack Obama said.
John Kerry has warned that any prolonged shutdown of the government could affect the US internationally.
Speaking at the APEC forum in Indonesia, the US Secretary of State said any impact was “momentary” and Washington’s commitment to Asia was “undiminished”.
President Barack Obama cancelled his Asia visit because of the shutdown.
The US government closed non-essential operations on Tuesday after Congress failed to agree a new budget.
Thousands of federal employees have been sent home. Some are working but not paid.
US-EU trade negotiations have also been postponed because of the crisis.
As world leaders headed for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Bali, John Kerry sought to allay concerns that Washington was reducing its global engagement.
“None of what is happening in Washington diminishes one iota our commitment to our partners in Asia,” he said.
John Kerry has warned that any prolonged shutdown of the government could affect the US internationally
John Kerry said the dispute with the Republicans in the US Congress was “an example of the robustness of our democracy”.
But at the same time, he urged Congress to think about how the US was perceived internationally when “we can’t get our own act together”.
John Kerry said areas where the shutdown was affecting US foreign policy funding included:
delays in security assistance for Israel
nearly all staff suspended at the treasury department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, which monitors sanctions on states like Iran
The Secretary of State warned of the consequences if the shutdown became longer term.
“This is a momentary impact. Obviously if it were prolonged or repeated people would begin, I think, to question the willingness of the United States to stay the course or its ability to, but that’s not the case and that will not be the case.”
Barack Obama had been due to begin a four-nation Asian trip on Saturday, heading to Bali and Brunei before travelling on to Malaysia and the Philippines.
The president used the APEC summit two years ago to announce a rebalancing of American naval power towards the Pacific.
The White House said Barack Obama’s decision to cancel his Asia trip was made due to the “difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown”.
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