United States President Donald Trump's famous deal-making skills have deserted him.
United States President Donald Trump's famous deal-making skills have deserted him. Evan Vucci

Trump's America not-so great in shutdown

THE United States Government has shut down for the first time since 2013, after Senate leaders failed to reach an agreement on a short-term spending bill.

Congress had faced a deadline of midnight on Friday local time to pass a measure that would continue funding the government, with the House having passed the legislation on Thursday.

A late-night vote was scheduled in the Senate just two hours before the deadline, but the Republicans needed at least some Democrat votes and the bill was voted down.

The shutdown is a blow for President Donald Trump with the White House leading the blame game as both parties accuse the other of causing the closure. While negotiations are continuing to find a deal, the government is technically out of money, leaving scores of federal agencies across the country unable to continue operating.

The final Senate vote ended 50 in favour to 49 against. Republicans have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, but Senator John McCain is currently away on health grounds. The vote did not follow party lines, with five Democrats voting in favour of the measure and four Republicans voting against it.

The drama over the shutdown will continue over the weekend as Democrats seek a deal over immigration reform, the major area of disagreement over the bill.

Mr Trump had spent the day making clear that he laid the blame for the shutdown at the door of Democrats, having earlier suggested that a shutdown might be inevitable as Democrats "want illegal immigration and weak borders”.

"Government Funding Bill past (sic) last night in the House of Representatives,” Mr Trump tweeted on Friday morning. "Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate - but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”

His later tweet added: "Not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border. Dems want a Shutdown in order to help diminish the great success of the Tax Cuts, and what they are doing for our booming economy.”

In a statement issued just before midnight, the White House said it will not negotiate with the Democrats on immigration until the end of the federal government shutdown.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands... When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”

The stand-off marked a test of the President's much vaunted deal-making skills - and of both parties' political fortitude. Republicans, who control both Congress and the White House, faced the prospect of being blamed for the display of dysfunction - just the fourth shutdown in a quarter of a century. It could also threaten to slow any Republican momentum, one month after passage of the party's signature tax cut law.

Democrats face the risk of being labelled obstructionist, with Republicans branding the consequences of no deal a "Schumer shutdown” - referencing Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Sentate - and argued that Democrats were harming fellow Americans to protect "illegal immigrants.”

Ms Sanders used the moniker in her statement: "Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown,” adding, "This is the behaviour of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”

Multiple Democratic senators had also made it clear along the way that they would not vote for another spending measure unless Republicans sign on to a bipartisan legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which the Trump administration previously announced would be phased out.

The program, which now expires in March, allows young immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents as children to secure education rights, work permits and deportation reprieves. Hundreds of thousands of young people - known as Dreamers - rely on the program and will be left in limbo after its closure.

Negotiations on any immigration deal have been complicated by Mr Trump's commitment to build a wall along the US's southern border - a barrier that Democrats vehemently oppose and would cost billions of dollars to construct. The President maintains that the US needs the wall for safety and security reasons.

After midnight, on the Senate floor Mr Schumer said that after a White House meeting earlier in the day with Mr Trump, he thought "in my heart” that senators could complete an agreement by evening. He says he "reluctantly” offered concessions on Mr Trump's long-sought border wall with Mexico in exchange for strong protections for young immigrants.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Friday suggested that Republicans may bear the brunt of political damage over the shutdown. Forty-eight per cent of the more than 1000 people polled nationally, said they would blame Mr Trump and Republicans, while 28 per cent would blame Democrats. An additional 18 per cent said they would blame both parties equally.

The conflict over the shutdown is coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Mr Trump's presidency and could have lasting repercussions, particularly regarding this year's mid-term elections in November.

Rather than heading to Florida on Friday evening as originally planned, where he was due to attend a gala celebrating his year in office, Mr Trump will be staying in Washington as it stands.

Alexandra Wilts, The Independent



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