26 Jan 2019

Trump signs bill to halt painful shutdown

4:49 pm on 26 January 2019

President Donald Trump has signed the bill to end the funding shutdown of the federal government for three weeks.

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Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Donald Trump said bipartisan talks would start soon to strengthen border security. Photo: AFP

The deal reached with congressional leaders, passed unaminously by the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, paves the way for tough talks with lawmakers about how to address security along the United States-Mexican border.

About a quarter of the US government has been without funding for 35 days, leaving many government employees reliant on food handouts.

Mr Trump's signing of the bill without securing money for wall along the US-Mexico border comes three days after he had insisted, "We will not Cave!"

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have flatly refused to provide any of the $US5.7 billion ($NZ8.3b) Mr Trump has demanded.

Speaking on day 35 of the shutdown in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump said the agreement would fund the government until 15 February.

"I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government," Mr Trump said at the White House.

In the meantime a bipartisan committee of lawmakers would meet to discuss the nation's border security needs, Mr Trump said.

He said federal workers affected by the political imbroglio, whom he called "incredible patriots", would receive full back-pay.

Mr Trump triggered the shutdown, which began on 22 December, with his wall-funding demand but Democrats rejected it on the grounds that a wall would be costly, ineffective and immoral. Mr Trump, whose Republicans have a majority in the Senate, has said it is necessary to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

"We do not need 2000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea. We never did," Mr Trump said.

"We never proposed that. We never wanted that because we have barriers at the border where natural structures are as good as anything that we could build.

"Our proposed structures will be in predetermined, high-risk locations that have been specifically identified by the Border Patrol to stop illicit flows of people and drugs," Mr Trump said.

The US Senate rejected two shutdown-ending bills on Thursday.

The president's statement came as some 800,000 civil servants missed another payday amid the five-week impasse.

Hundreds of flights were grounded or delayed at US airports on Friday because of unpaid air traffic controllers calling in sick.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) halted arrivals for nearly an hour at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Flights were also delayed at Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport because of staff shortages, the FAA said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees failed to show up after they were ordered to return to work unpaid, the Washington Post reported.

The Trump administration recalled 26,000 IRS workers this week to handle the looming tax filing season. But about 14,000 of them did not come back, and most could not even be reached, IRS officials told members of Congress.

- BBC / Reuters

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