U.S. government shutdown breaks record with no end in sight

Vastavam web: A partial U.S. government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border entered its 22nd day on Saturday, making it the longest shuttering of federal agencies in U.S. history, with no end in sight. Trump, holed up in the White House with Congress adjourned for the weekend, warned of a much lengthier impasse and blamed the Democrats.

“They’re the ones that are holding it up,” he said during a telephone interview with Fox News on Saturday night. “It would take me 15 minutes to get a deal done, and everybody can go back to work.” The closure, which began on Dec. 22, broke a decades-old record by a 1995-1996 shutdown under former President Bill Clinton that lasted 21 days. Roughly 800,000 federal workers did not receive paychecks that would have gone out on Friday. Some have resorted to selling their possessions or posting appeals on online fundraising sites to help pay their bills.

Miami International Airport said it will close one of its terminals early over the next several days due to a possible shortage of security screeners, who have been calling in sick at twice the normal rate. A union that represents thousands of air traffic controllers sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday, saying it had violated federal wage law by failing to pay workers. It is at least the third lawsuit filed by unions on behalf of unpaid workers.

The head of the U.S. Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, has warned employees that financial stress can lead to depression and anxiety. “Keep an eye out for warning signs of trouble,” Director R.D. “Tex” Alles wrote in a memo seen. The FAA, which oversees air traffic controllers, said on Saturday it had seen no unusual rates of sick leave among its controllers and no disruptions to air traffic control operations. To support its workforce, the TSA said it was processing pay for employees who worked on the first day of the shutdown and announced $500 bonuses for uniformed screening officers.

“I want to give them a chance to see if they can act responsibly,” Trump said, calling the situation at the nation’s southern border a “humanitarian crisis.” “They think it’s politics. I think it’s bad politics. This country wants to have protection at the border,” Trump said. Democrats, who call a wall an ineffective, outdated answer to a complex problem, have passed several bills in the House of Representatives to reopen the government without funding for Trump’s barrier. But the legislation has been ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Trump has repeatedly described the situation at the Mexico border as a “humanitarian crisis” as speculation has increased this week that he would circumvent Congress to begin building his signature wall – a move that would be sure to draw a court challenge from Democrats who say the barrier would be barbaric and ineffective. Instead, the president urged lawmakers to provide him the $5.7 billion he is seeking for border security.

A national emergency would allow Trump to divert money from other projects to pay for the wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 campaign. That, in turn, could prompt him to sign bills that restore funding to agencies that have been affected by the shutdown.