US government shutdown enters second week as border wall impasse continues
Donald Trump is demanding several million dollars to spend on the barrier at the Mexican border.
President Donald Trump and the Democrats are trading blame for the partial shutdown of the US government – but doing little substantive talking with each other as the disruption in federal services and public employees’ pay enters a second week.
Mr Trump upped the brinkmanship by threatening again to close the border with Mexico completely to press Congress to cave in to his demands for money to pay for a wall.
Democrats vowed to pass legislation restoring the government as soon as they take control of the House on Thursday, but that will not accomplish anything unless Mr Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate go along with it.
We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with. Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2018
The impact on the public of the impasse grew as the Environmental Protection Agency, which had the money to function a week longer than some agencies, implemented its shutdown plan at midnight on Friday night.
Agency spokeswoman Molly Block said many of its 14,000 employees are being told to stay at home, while disaster-response teams and certain other employees deemed essential will stay on the job.
Also running short on money, the Smithsonian Institution said its museums and galleries popular with visitors and locals in Washington will close from midweek if the partial shutdown continues.
Mr Trump appears no closer to securing money for his signature border wall, which he vowed during the presidential campaign that he would make Mexico pay for.
He has failed to do that – and now Democratic leaders are adamant they will not authorise money for the project, calling it wasteful and ineffective. They show no signs of bending, either.
“We are far apart,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday.
Mr Trump tweeted: “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with.”
He also threatened to cut off US aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, among countries he deems have not done enough to combat illegal immigration.
He has made similar threats in the past without following through, and it is Congress, not the president, that appropriates aid money.
The shutdown is forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors to stay at home or work without pay.
Mr Trump’s incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Democrats are no longer negotiating with the administration over an earlier offer by the White House to accept less than the 5 billion US dollars (£3.9 billion) the president wants for the wall.
Democrats said the White House offered to accept 2.5 billion US dollars (£1.9 billion) for border security, but Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told vice-president Mike Pence that was not acceptable. It was also not guaranteed that Mr Trump would settle for that amount.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reacted cautiously to Mr Trump’s threat to close the border, calling it an “internal affair of the US government”.
He added: “We are always seeking a good relationship with the United States. We do not want to be rash.”