Trump, Congress Leaders Reach Deal To End Shutdown
Yielding to mounting pressure and growing disruption, President Donald Trump and congressional leaders on Friday reached a short-term deal to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over the president's demands for money to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump announced the agreement to break the 35-day impasse as intensifying delays at the nation's airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff. "I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government," he said from the Rose Garden.
The Senate has unanimously passed a hard-fought measure to reopen shuttered government agencies for three weeks, ending a five-week partial shutdown sparked by President Donald Trump's demands for immediate money to build his long-sought border wall.
The measure passed the Senate by voice vote Friday hours after Trump relented. It now goes to the House, which is expected to quickly pass the measure and send it to the White House for Trump's signature.
The measure would recall to work hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers and provide them with back pay after two missed paychecks.
.@SenSchumer & I are speaking to reporters at the Capitol now that @realDonaldTrump has agreed to end the #TrumpShutdown. https://t.co/trqjCW5oT8— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 25, 2019
Friday's developments awarded Democrats with a victory settled mostly on their terms and set up talks on a government-wide spending bill that will serve as a vehicle for negotiations on border security and the wall.
The Senate has appointed its members of a conference committee that will negotiate a border security agreement between Congress and the White House over the next three weeks.
President Donald Trump agreed Friday to reopen the government until Feb. 15 while Congress works to come to a deal on border security. The government has been shut down since December as Trump has insisted on money for his border wall, but Democrats have objected.
Sitting on the committee are Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Hoeven of North Dakota and Democratic Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Jon Tester of Montana. Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
After saying for weeks that he would not reopen the government without border wall money, Trump said he would soon sign a bill to re-open the government through Feb. 15 without additional money for his signature campaign promise. He said that a bipartisan committee of lawmakers would be formed to consider border spending before the new deadline.
"They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first," Trump said. He asserted that "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution."
January 25, 2019
But he hinted that he was still considering taking unilateral action if efforts to come up with money for his wall fail. "I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn't want to use it at this time," he said.
Overnight and into Friday, at least five Republican senators had been calling Trump, urging him to reopen the government and have the Senate consider his request for border wall money through regular legislation, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss the private talks publicly.
The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey both experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday due to the shutdown. And the world's busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.
Trump and the Democrats in Congress had remained at odds over his demand that any compromise include money for his coveted border wall.
The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the "hour of national turmoil" to help senators do "what is right."
Senators were talking with increased urgency after Thursday's defeat of competing proposals from Trump and the Democrats. The bipartisan talks provided a glimmer of hope that some agreement could be reached to halt the longest-ever closure of federal agencies, at least temporarily.
"There are discussions on the Senate side," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday morning as she entered the Capitol. "We are in touch with them." Asked about Trump's demands for border security measures as part of a bill temporarily reopening government, Pelosi said, "One step at a time."
Pelosi was referring to a meeting Thursday between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to explore next steps for solving the vitriolic stalemate. Pressure has been building among both parties to reopen agencies immediately and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.
Monday is the start of federal tax filing season. But fewer than half of the furloughed IRS employees recalled during the shutdown to handle tax returns and send out refunds reported for work as of Tuesday, according to congressional and government aides. The employees had been told to work without pay.
Throughout, the two sides issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked negotiations from even starting: Trump has refused to reopen government until Congress gives him the wall money, and congressional Democrats have rejected bargaining until he reopens government.