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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 January 2019

Top Trump aide says shutdown may go into new year

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tries to shift blame to Democrats

Mr Mulvaney sought to shift blame for the partial shutdown to Nancy Pelosi, Democrat nominee for Speaker of the House of Representatives. EPA
Mr Mulvaney sought to shift blame for the partial shutdown to Nancy Pelosi, Democrat nominee for Speaker of the House of Representatives. EPA

President Donald Trump’s budget director and chief of staff on Sunday said the partial US government shutdown could continue to January 3, when the new Congress convenes and Democrats take over the House of Representatives.

The US Senate adjourned on Saturday unable to break an impasse over Mr Trump’s demand for more funds for a wall on the border with Mexico that Democrats are unwilling to accept.

Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday the White House made a “counteroffer” to Democrats on funding for border security that fell between the Democratic offer of $1.3 billion (Dh4.77bn) and Mr Trump’s demand for $5bn.

As part of those talks on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence offered to drop the demand for $5bn for a border wall, substituting instead $2.1bn, ABC News reported.

Mr Mulvaney sought to shift blame for the partial shutdown to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic nominee for Speaker of the US House of Representatives, saying she might hold up negotiations to ensure she secures the position.

“I think she’s in that unfortunate position of being beholden to her left wing to where she cannot be seen as agreeing with the president on anything until after she is speaker,” Mr Mulvaney said. “If that’s the case, again, there’s a chance we go into the next Congress.”

Mrs Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill disputed that account, saying: “As Mr Mulvaney well knows, House Democrats are united in their opposition to the President’s immoral, expensive and ineffective wall.”

The White House should “stop the posturing and start serious bipartisan talks,” Mr Hammill said.

Financing for about a quarter of federal government programs – including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – expired at midnight on Friday. More than 400,000 "essential" employees in those agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be “furloughed”, meaning they are put on temporary leave.

Law enforcement efforts, border patrols, mail delivery and airport operations will keep running.

Building a wall to keep migrants from entering the US illegally was a central part of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, but Democrats are vehemently opposed and have rejected his funding request.

Mr Trump reiterated his push for border security on Sunday, saying on Twitter that “the only way” to stop drugs, gangs and human trafficking at the border was with a wall or barrier.

“Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun, but it is only a good old fashioned Wall that works!,” the president tweeted.

Earlier in the week, leaders in both the Senate and House of Representatives thought they had reached a deal that Trump would sign which contained less money for border security, only to watch the president, under pressure from conservatives, re-assert his demand for $5bn at the last minute.

Senator David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia on the Senate Banking Committee, said on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures that he thought a deal this week was possible.

“I spoke to the President last night, he wants that,” Mr Purdue said, adding “I’m hopeful that cooler heads will prevail and we’ll get to some number between $1.6 (bn) and $5bn on that.”

Updated: December 24, 2018 08:43 AM

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