WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump agreed under mounting pressure Friday to temporarily end a 35-day-old partial government shutdown without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded for a border wall, handing a political victory — at least for now — to Democrats.
A three-week spending deal reached with congressional leaders, quickly passed by the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-controlled House without opposition, paves the way for tough talks with lawmakers about how to address security along the U.S.-Mexican border.
The Republican president’s agreement to end the shuttering of about a quarter of the government without securing wall money — an astonishing retreat — came three days after he insisted “We will not Cave!”
But Trump vowed the shutdown would resume Feb. 15 if he is dissatisfied with the results of a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee’s negotiations. He threatened to declare a national emergency as a way to get the wall money despite Congress.
A lapse in funding had shuttered about a quarter of federal agencies, with about 800,000 workers either furloughed or required to work without pay. Many employees and contractors were turning to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support. Jet travel was being affected as air traffic controllers and airport security screeners increasingly stopped reporting to their no-pay-for-now jobs.
With polls showing most Americans blamed him for the shutdown — the longest of its kind in U.S. history — Trump embraced a way out of the crisis that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been pushing.
The shutdown, which pitted Pelosi against Trump, was her first test since assuming the post three weeks ago. She drew praise from fellow Democrats for what they said was an outmaneuvering of the president.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats remained unyielding in their opposition to a wall, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises that they call ineffective, costly and immoral. Trump has said it is needed to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Asked if she could guarantee there will not be another government shutdown in three weeks, Pelosi said, “I can’t assure the public about anything that the president will do, but I do have to say I’m optimistic.”
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he would act to ensure that federal workers get back pay “very quickly, or as soon as possible,” though that likely will be at least several days. The workers already have missed their last two paychecks.
Trump continued to push for more border security, though his language again seemed to leave some wiggle room over just what kind of “wall” he demanded.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” he said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15 — again — or I would use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”
He previously has indicated he was considering an emergency declaration to circumvent congressional funding powers if lawmakers do not fund his wall, an action that almost certainly would be swiftly challenged by Democrats as exceeding his constitution authority.
Trump triggered the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, with his wall-funding demand after being criticized by conservative commentators for being willing to sign legislation funding the government without securing wall money.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter lashed out Friday at Trump for capitulating, calling him on Twitter “the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said he hoped the experience would be a “lesson learned” for Trump and his party that it is self-defeating to shut the government over policy disputes. Schumer said Democrats and Trump have “so many areas” of agreement on border security — but not a wall.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!
You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.
“The walls we are building are not medieval walls,” Trump said. “They are smart walls designed to meet the needs of front-line border agents and are operationally effective. These barriers are made of steel, have see-through visibility, which is very important, and are equipped with sensors, monitors and cutting-edge technology, including state-of-the-art drones.”
“We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea. We never did,” Trump added. “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.”
Pelosi said she would discuss with Trump “a mutually agreed date” for his annual State of the Union address, which she had forced him to postpone amid the shutdown showdown.
A senior White House official said the speech will not be Tuesday, as first planned, and it is up to Pelosi to reschedule.