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.
Standing alone in the Rose Garden, Trump said that he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until Feb. 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall.
The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall, but ends the longest shutdown in US history.
First the US Senate, then the US House of Representatives swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late on Friday, Trump signed it into law.
The Trump administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a “prompt and orderly manner,” saying that furloughed employees could return to work.
Trump’s retreat came on the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.
“This was in no way a concession,” Trump said on Twitter, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races.”
The shutdown ended as US Democratic leaders had insisted it must — reopen the government first, then talk border security.
“The president thought he could crack Democrats and he didn’t, and I hope it’s a lesson for him,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of her members: “Our unity is our power, and that is what maybe the president underestimated.”
Trump still made the case for a border wall and maintained that he might again shut down the government over it.
Yet, as negotiations restart, Trump enters them from a weakened position. A strong majority of Americans blamed him for the standoff and rejected his arguments for a border wall, polls showed.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump said.
The president has said that he could declare a national emergency to fund the border wall unilaterally if Congress does not provide the money.
Such a move would almost certainly face legal hurdles.
As part of the deal with congressional leaders, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers was being formed to consider border spending as part of the legislative process in the weeks ahead.
“They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first,” Trump said.
He asserted that a “barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution.”
The deal includes back pay for about 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks. The Trump administration has promised to pay them as soon as possible.
Also expected is a new date for the president to deliver his State of the Union address, postponed during the shutdown.
However, it would not take place on Jan. 29 as once planned, said a person familiar with the planning, who was not authorized to discuss it.
As border talks resume, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he hopes there would be “good-faith negotiations over the next three weeks to try to resolve our differences.”
While Democrats oppose the wall money, they agree on other ways to secure the border “and that bodes well for coming to an eventual agreement,” Schumer said.
In striking the accord, Trump risks a backlash from conservatives who pushed him to keep fighting for the wall.
Some lashed out for his having yielded, for now, on his signature campaign promise.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter said on Twitter that she views Trump as “the biggest wimp” to serve as president.
Money for the wall is not at all guaranteed, as Democrats have held united against building a structure as Trump once envisioned, preferring other types of border technology.
Asked about Trump’s wall, Pelosi, who has said repeatedly that she would not approve money for it, said: “Have I not been clear? No, I have been very clear.”
The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs on Friday because of the shutdown.
The world’s busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.
The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the “hour of national turmoil” to help senators do “what is right.”
Bipartisan talks on Friday provided a glimmer of hope that some agreement could be reached, but several senators said that they did not know what to expect as they arrived to watch the president’s televised address from their lunchroom off the Senate floor.
Contributing to the pressure on lawmakers to find a solution was the harsh reality confronting many federal workers, who on Friday faced a second two-week payday with no paychecks.
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