5 Jan 2019

Trump ready for US shutdown to last 'for years'

9:21 am on 5 January 2019

US President Donald Trump has said he is prepared for a partial shutdown of the US government - now entering its third week - to last years.

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters.

Donald Trump said he would not sign any budget bill without congressional funding Photo: AFP

After meeting top Democrats at the White House, the Republican president stood by his demand for congressional funding of a US-Mexico border wall.

Mr Trump said he would not sign any budget bill without such funding, but Democrats are adamantly against.

Around 800,000 federal workers have been without pay since 22 December.

Mr Trump initially gave a positive account of the meeting, describing it as "very productive".

"We're all on the same path in terms of wanting to get government open," he said at the White House.

But then he acknowledged in response to a journalist's question that he had threatened to keep federal agencies closed for years if necessary.

"I did say that, absolutely I said that," said Mr Trump in the White House Rose Garden. "I don't think it will but I am prepared."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer met Mr Trump earlier on Friday.

Afterwards, Senator Schumer told reporters: "We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted.

"In fact he said he'd keep the government closed for a very long period of time. Months or even years."

The White House and top Democrats also held a meeting earlier this week over the shutdown.

Democrats, who now hold the majority in the House, passed spending bills on Thursday to reopen the government, including $1.3bn (£1bn) of border security funds until 8 February.

But the legislation cannot take effect unless it passes the Republican-controlled Senate, where leader Mitch McConnell said his party would not back any measures without the president's support.

The Kentucky senator called the Democratic budget "a time-wasting act of political posturing".

The Washington Post reported on Friday that while hundreds of federal workers go without pay, the president's cabinet secretaries, top administrators as well as Vice-President Mike Pence are expected to receive annual raises of about $10,000.

The partial US government shutdown began when Congress and Mr Trump failed to reach an agreement over a budget bill in December.

The Republicans had passed an initial funding bill including $5bn (£4bn) for the wall, when they still had a majority in the House, but they could not get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate.

Two vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020 - Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine - have spoken out in favour of approving the budget bills to end the government shutdown.

The White House is again floating the idea of a deal for 'Dreamers' - immigrants who illegally entered the US as children.

Democrats want to ensure that these individuals are shielded from deportation, but have insisted that they will not support a deal over wall funding.

Vice-President Mike Pence told Fox News the deal was being "talked about", but that Mr Trump said no deal was possible "without a wall".

What does the partial shutdown mean?

  • About 25 percent of the US federal government has no funding
  • Nine departments have been affected, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury
  • Around 800,000 federal workers are now furloughed - that is, temporarily laid off due to a lack of funding - or working without pay
  • Native American tribes who receive substantial federal funding are struggling
  • National Parks have become hazardous without staff


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs