Washington, DC – Hundreds of thousands of US government workers in January missed their first payday of the year as the partial shutdown of federal agencies continued while the political bickering continued unabated between the White House and the US lawmakers.
President Donald Trump repeatedly declared no way he was reopening the government unless he got funding for his Mexico-border wall. On the other hand, a few miles away, House Speaker, Democrat from California Nancy Pelosi alone with Senate Minority Leader fellow Democrat from New York, Chuck Schumer sitting tight over their adamant declarations that they will not fund the project.
A small light of hope was extinguished as President Trump walked out of a meeting with Democratic leaders with negotiations breaking down on the 19th day of shutdown. Pelosi and Schumer stuck by their refusal to fund his border wall, prompting Trump to call the meeting “a total waste of time.” Later Democrats accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum.”
Thus there seemed to be no end in sight as the shutdown went in the annals of history as the longest. President Trump refusing to approve a federal budget unless it includes funding for a border wall, the Democrats continued to reject his request for $5.7 billion for the project.
Trump who repeatedly touted the option of declaring a national emergency on the issue, opening up defence department funding for the wall, decided to put this option on the back burner as this would be hugely controversial and would prompt a lengthy legal battle.
In an eight-minute first live address from the Oval Office in the White House to the nation, President Trump blamed the Democrats for the government shutdown. Calling the situation at the border, a “humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said, would pay for the wall through a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is yet to be ratified.
On the ground situation, federal employees seemed to facing hardships in everyday life, with no end in sight to the impasse. Radha Muthiah, head of Capital Area Food Bank, said that dozens of volunteers are working to pack bags of food for affected staff.
Of the 800,000 federal employees going unpaid, about 350,000 are furloughed – a kind of temporary lay-off – while the rest are continuing to work.
In a band-aid kind of consolation, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to ensure all government workers receive retroactive pay after the shutdown ends. The president is expected to sign the legislation.