Congress Votes to End Shutdown as Trump Capitulates to Pelosi
(Bloomberg) -- Congress voted to end the 35-day partial government shutdown after President Donald Trump capitulated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and agreed to reopen federal agencies without any guarantee of money for his proposed border wall.
The Senate and House voted unanimously on Friday to reopen the agencies through Feb. 15 while lawmakers negotiate on a border security plan. Once Trump signs the legislation, hundreds of thousands of federal employees can return to work and get back pay dating to the beginning of the impasse, on Dec. 22.
“Hopefully, now the president has learned his lesson,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters.
About 800,000 federal employees were furloughed or working without pay, and many of them missed their second paycheck on Friday. Pressure on Trump and lawmakers to end the shutdown escalated as LaGuardia Airport in New York was briefly closed because of a shortage of air traffic controllers, exacerbating flight delays across the country.
The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo in Washington will reopen on Tuesday, according to the zoo’s Twitter account.
The shutdown “never should have happened,” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said on the Senate floor before the vote. “We cannot mess with people’s lives this way.”
But Trump said at the White House Rose Garden that if he doesn’t get a “fair deal” from Congress by Feb. 15, the government will shut down again or he will use emergency powers under the Constitution to address border security.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump told reporters.
And in a tweet on Friday night he said, “I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
Instead of providing border wall money, the agreement will provide time for a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate on a security plan for the Mexican border. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for a border wall.
Democrats stuck together behind Pelosi’s message that a wall is immoral and ineffective, and that the government should use personnel and technology to secure the border. Party members insisted they wouldn’t negotiate on border security until the government was reopened.
“Our unity is our power, and that is what maybe the president underestimated,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference with Schumer.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he hopes Democrats will negotiate toward a full-year government funding deal “that would include a significant investment in urgently needed border security measures, including physical barriers.”
Trump said he will make sure that the federal workers who haven’t been paid during the shutdown will receive back wages quickly.
Negotiations in the Senate restarted Thursday after the chamber rejected rival plans from Trump and Democrats to fund the government. Trump had refused to end the shutdown until he received $5.7 billion for a border wall, and Democrats had refused to negotiate with him on wall funding as long as the shutdown continued.
The temporary funding deal came together Thursday in a meeting between Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a Democratic aide. McConnell said there would need to be a down payment on the wall -- terms that Schumer rejected.
Schumer then suggested a short-term funding measure to reopen government followed by a House-Senate conference committee on a funding bill that would focus on border security, according to the aide.
McConnell took the proposal to the White House, the aide said. Schumer and McConnell spoke several times by phone on Friday to discuss how to pass the temporary funding measure, and Schumer spoke with Pelosi, who was on the same page, according to the aide.
Some of Trump’s most conservative supporters turned on him after he announced the deal, including author Ann Coulter, who called him a “wimp” in a tweet. Breitbart News published a headline noting the government would re-open but there would be “no wall.”
In December, the Republican-controlled Senate had voted to fund the government agencies until Feb. 8 to allow time for border security talks. The House was preparing to pass the measure when Trump insisted he wouldn’t sign a bill without wall money, triggering the shutdown.
“We are back to exactly where we were five weeks ago,” independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on the Senate floor Friday.
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