Trump signs bill to end longest US govt shutdown

Washington: Donald Trump on Saturday signed into law a funding package temporarily reopening the federal government without securing money for his proposed border wall, in a defeat for the president following a 35-day stand-off.

A three-week stopgap spending plan, passed by the Senate and heading to the House of Representatives, now sets up tough talks with lawmakers about how to address security along the U.S.-Mexican border, with Democrats appearing unyielding in their opposition to Trump’s wall.

With polls showing most Americans blamed him for the painful shutdown – the longest of its kind in U.S. history – Trump embraced a way out of the crisis that Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been pushing for weeks.

But the Republican president vowed the shutdown would resume on Feb. 15 if he is dissatisfied with the results of the border security talks, or he would declare a national emergency to get the wall money.

With the effects of the shutdown spreading, the Republican-led Senate voted unanimously to pass the stopgap spending measure to temporarily fund many agencies. The Democratic-led House was expected to approve it on Friday as well.

The shutdown, which pitted Pelosi against Trump – was her first test since assuming the post three weeks ago, and she drew praise from fellow Democrats for what they said was an outmaneuvering of the president.

After Trump announced the agreement, top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said he hoped the experience would be a “lesson learned” for Trump and his party that it is self-defeating to shut down the government over policy disputes.

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump – who days earlier had insisted “We will not Cave!” – said in the White House Rose Garden on a chilly, sunny winter day.

A lapse in funding shuttered about a quarter of federal agencies, with about 800,000 workers either furloughed or required to work without pay. Many employees as well as contractors were turning to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support. Others began seeking new jobs.

Trump said he would act to ensure that federal workers get their back pay “very quickly, or as soon as possible.”

Trump had previously demanded the inclusion of the money to help pay for a wall – one of his signature campaign promises – in any legislation to fund government agencies, but Democrats had blocked him. He also said he was not looking to build a concrete wall along the entire southern border.

An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that stories of law enforcement officials not being able to do their jobs at full capacity helped convince Trump to agree to a short-term solution to re-open the government. The official said the White House ultimately would accept a deal with lawmakers if it includes wall funding, even if it is less than $5.7 billion.

The agreement requires passage in the House and Senate and Trump’s signature. Trump said a bipartisan congressional conference committee will meet to come up with a plan for border security. Schumer said Democrats and Trump have “so many areas” on which they can agree on border security but not a wall.

(With inputs from agencies)

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