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Parties play blame game on Capitol Hill over US government shutdown

By AP Reporters

Republicans and Democrats showed no signs of ending their stand-off over immigration and spending yesterday, as Americans woke up to a government shutdown.

Congress staged a weekend session to show voters it was trying to resolve the stalemate, which led to the closure of many government agencies in a striking display of Washington dysfunction.

However, the day - the first anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as President - was marked more by finger-pointing than signs of bipartisan deal-making.

Mr Trump made light of the debacle in a tweet that Democrats "wanted to give me a nice present" to mark the start of his second year in office.

The President spoke with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the next possible steps, while chief of staff John Kelly also sought an agreement.

White House negotiators, legislative affairs director Marc Short and budget chief Mick Mulvaney went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Republicans, who emerged holding fast to their stance that they would not negotiate while the administration was closed down.

Senate Democrats had killed a Republican-drafted House-passed measure that would have kept agencies functioning for four weeks. Democrats were seeking a stopgap Bill of just a few days in the hope it would build pressure on Republicans, and were opposing a three-week alternative offered by Republican leaders.

Democrats have insisted they would back legislation reopening the government, once there is a bipartisan agreement to preserve protections against deporting about 700,000 immigrants who arrived in the US illegally as children. Each party believes it has a winning political hand, and the day's first words by party leaders underscored that, so far, neither side believe it is time to give ground.

Mr McConnell said: "The American people cannot begin to understand why the Senate Democratic leader thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration."

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said voters will fault Mr Trump and his party.

He blamed the President for reneging on a near-deal that Mr Schumer said the two men had approached during a White House meeting on Friday. "Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O," Mr Schumer said.

Though the House and Senate were in session on Saturday, it was unclear whether legislators would take any votes of consequence.

Democrats said they oppose the three-week plan, viewing it as a way to stall negotiations over the future of the "Dreamers" - immigrants whose protections expire in March.

Republicans declared they would not reopen talks until the government shutdown ends, a strategy aimed at trying to erode Democratic cohesion.

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