President Donald Trump assured Saturday that the “shutdown” that has partially paralyzed for three weeks the federal administrations of the United States, and which has become the longest in the history of the country, could be “settled in 15 minutes”.
The record was broken Friday at midnight (0500 GMT Saturday), surpassing the 21 days of “shutdown” during the Bill Clinton era in 1995-1996.
No compromise could be found between the Republican president, who calls for $ 5.7 billion to build an anti-migrants wall on the border with Mexico, and Democrats, fiercely opposed to the project, deemed “immoral”, expensive and ineffective in combating illegal immigration.
On Saturday morning, Donald Trump multiplied tweets calling on the Democratic opposition to “return to Washington” to put an end to what he called “the horrible humanitarian crisis on the southern border”.
“Democrats could solve the shutdown in 15 minutes! Call your senator or Democratic representative. Tell them to do their job! Humanitarian crisis,” he tweeted.
He also mentioned criticisms in the Washington Post about his lack of a plan to revive the government. “In fact, there is hardly anyone in the White House except me, and I have a plan for the shutdown,” he wrote.
The Republican billionaire had assured Friday not want to declare “so quickly” a national emergency procedure that would allow him to use funds already approved by Congress to finance the construction of the wall at the border.
“What we are not trying to do for now is the national emergency,” he added after days of speculation about the use of such a procedure that gives the president exceptional powers. To use such a prerogative would surely plunge the country into a politico-judicial storm.
“I want to give them the opportunity to see if they can behave responsibly,” he also said, speaking of the Democrats, in an interview Saturday night on Fox News.
According to several American media reports, the White House plans to redirect emergency aid funds for various areas ravaged by natural disasters, such as Puerto Rico, to fund the construction of a border fence.
In Congress, no compromise is on the horizon. The Senate adjourned Friday early in the afternoon and will not meet again until Monday.
The consequences are very real. For the first time Friday, the 800,000 federal employees affected by the “shutdown” did not receive their salary.
Since 22 December, half of them, considered “non-essential”, have been placed on unpaid leave, while the other half have been requisitioned.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a law passed by the Senate on Friday, guaranteeing federal employees that they will be paid retroactively once the shutdown is over. It is now up to the president to promulgate it.
This type of measure is common in the United States when the country goes through such budget impasses. But it does not concern the millions of contract workers also affected.
Several key ministries, such as those of Homeland Security, Justice or Transport, are affected by the shutdown.
On Thursday, major air transport unions – airline pilots, aircrew, air traffic controllers – denounced a worsening situation, pointing to increased risks to the country’s security.
A terminal at Miami International Airport will be closed intermittently from Saturday to Monday due to lack of personnel.
A protest in Washington has also gathered according to the unions more than 2,000 government employees, who have expressed concern about the deterioration of their living conditions.
“We have bills to pay, we have to pay our mortgage,” Anthony told AFP, a civilian Coast Guard employee whose wife works for a non-profit organization.
“Fortunately, we have some savings to live, but it will not last very long,” he added, saying the officials were “taken hostage” by the Republican president.
Many private and public initiatives, such as free meals or job fairs for unemployed civil servants, are organized throughout the country.
Prolonged paralysis of the federal government would “have a noticeable effect” on the world’s largest economy, warned US Central Bank boss Jerome Powell this week.
Source: Seychelles News Agency