USA gov't shutdown ends, but border issue remains

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Submitting to mounting pressure, US President Donald Trump on Friday signed a bill to reopen the US government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that US Congress give him money for a border wall before federal agencies go back to work.

Democrats remained unified against White House efforts to divide the caucus, and they head into the next round of debate over border security funding determined to make good on their own 2018 promises to block Trump's wall.

Blowback was swift. Democrats claimed victory and hardline conservative commentators decried the abrupt end as a capitulation, pointing out that the short-term deal, which will last until Feb 15, was reached in spite of Mr Trump's previous insistence that he would not sign any deal that did not include funding for a US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) wall at the US-Mexico border. Contributing to the pressure on lawmakers to find a solution was the harsh reality confronting numerous federal workers, who on Friday faced a second two-week payday with no paychecks.

As part of the deal, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers is being formed to review border security recommendations.

Another evangelical leader with Trump's ear, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, said the president was smart to end the shutdown, even if some conservatives are angry.

The deal includes back pay for about 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks. The President is now more unpopular than he was before the shutdown began, sacked with blame for the 35-day lapse in funding. The deal would leave Trump's request for wall funding for later talks, the aide said. "We will build the Wall!" he tweeted.

Whether the entire nation will have to repeat the experience in three weeks remains to be seen, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. said he believes Trump's threat of another shutdown is credible.

In a video message to agents on Friday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said: "I'm about as angry as I've been in a long, long time".

The impasse was an early test for Pelosi after her return to the speakership, one that she appeared to pass handily.

During a meeting last week with a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, Trump anxious that he might not be able to get funding for his border wall if he agreed to reopen the government while negotiations continue.

"If we had a powerful Wall, they wouldn't even try to make the long and unsafe journey. I am going to keep pushing for these Americans-the people who are often invisible securing buildings and keeping them clean, and working in cafeterias-because I've made it my job to fight for people who've been hurt by the shutdown". But some Republicans backed Trump Friday, noting that he has agreed a week earlier to extensions of protections for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children and those from unsafe countries.

After Trump's announcement of the government reopening, Pelosi told reporters that a date would be worked out for the president's address. But he added that he didn't think it would prompt his supporters to vote for Democratic candidate over Trump in the 2020 presidential election. One of the many aspects pushing to end the shutdown was hundreds of flight delays or cancellations due to a lack of air traffic controllers.

Pelosi, however, had already waved off the idea, and Schumer said Democrats would not support it, according to a senior Democratic aide.

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