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Trump announces deal to end record-long shutdown

Associated Press • Jan 25, 2019 at 2:36 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Yielding to mounting pressure and growing disruption, President Donald Trump and congressional leaders on Friday reached a short-term deal to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over the president's demands for money to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump announced the agreement to break the 35-day impasse as intensifying delays at the nation's airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.

"I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government," he said from the Rose Garden.

The Senate was set to approve the deal, with the House following later Friday, according to lawmakers and aides on Capitol Hill. The legislation would include back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks.

After saying for weeks that he would not reopen the government without border wall money, Trump said he would soon sign a bill to re-open the government through Feb. 15 without additional money for his signature campaign promise. He said that a bipartisan committee of lawmakers would be formed to consider border spending before the new deadline.

"They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first," Trump said. He asserted that "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution."

But he hinted that he was still considering taking unilateral action if efforts to come up with money for his wall fail. "I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn't want to use it at this time," he said.

Overnight and into Friday, at least five Republican senators had been calling Trump, urging him to reopen the government and have the Senate consider his request for border wall money through regular legislation, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss the private talks publicly.

The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey both experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday due to the shutdown. And 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.

Trump and the Democrats in Congress had remained at odds over his demand that any compromise include money for his coveted border wall.

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."

Senators were talking with increased urgency after Thursday's defeat of competing proposals from Trump and the Democrats. The bipartisan talks provided a glimmer of hope that some agreement could be reached to halt the longest-ever closure of federal agencies, at least temporarily.

"There are discussions on the Senate side," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday morning as she entered the Capitol. "We are in touch with them." Asked about Trump's demands for border security measures as part of a bill temporarily reopening government, Pelosi said, "One step at a time."

Pelosi was referring to a meeting Thursday between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to explore next steps for solving the vitriolic stalemate.

Pressure has been building among both parties to reopen agencies immediately and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.

Monday is the start of federal tax filing season. But fewer than half of the furloughed IRS employees recalled during the shutdown to handle tax returns and send out refunds reported for work as of Tuesday, according to congressional and government aides. The employees had been told to work without pay.

At the White House Thursday, Trump told reporters he'd support "a reasonable agreement" to reopen the government. He suggested he'd also want a "prorated down payment" for his long-sought border wall with Mexico but didn't describe the term. He said he has "other alternatives" for getting wall money, an apparent reference to his disputed claim that he could declare a national emergency and fund the wall's construction using other programs in the federal budget.

Contributing to the pressure on lawmakers to find a solution was the harsh reality confronting 800,000 federal workers, who on Friday faced a second two-week payday with no paychecks.

In an embarrassment to Trump, a Democratic proposal to end the shutdown got two more votes in the Senate on Thursday than a GOP plan, even though Republicans control the chamber 53-47. Six Republicans backed the Democratic plan, including freshman Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who's clashed periodically with the president.

The Senate first rejected a Republican plan reopening the government through September and giving Trump the $5.7 billion he's demanded for building segments of that wall, a project that he'd long promised Mexico would finance. The 50-47 vote for the measure fell 10 shy of the 60 votes needed to succeed.

Minutes later, senators voted 52-44 for a Democratic alternative that sought to open padlocked agencies through Feb. 8 with no wall money. That was eight votes short. It was aimed at giving bargainers time to seek an accord while getting paychecks to government workers who are either working without pay or being forced to stay home.

Thursday's votes came after Vice President Mike Pence lunched privately with restive GOP senators, who told him they were itching for the standoff to end, participants said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said their message to Pence was, "Find a way forward."

Throughout, the two sides issued mutually exclusive demands that have blocked negotiations from even starting: Trump has refused to reopen government until Congress gives him the wall money, and congressional Democrats have rejected bargaining until he reopens government.

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Previous story:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the partial government shutdown (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he'll sign legislation shortly to reopen shuttered government departments for three weeks — until Feb. 15.

Trump's action would end what has become a record, 35-day partial shutdown.

Some 800,000 federal workers have had to work without pay or have been kept from doing their jobs as Trump and congressional Democrats were locked in a stalemate over the billions of dollars that Trump has demanded to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Trump spoke at the White House on Friday as intensifying delays at some of the nation's busiest airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to break the impasse.

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2 p.m.

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders are closing in on a deal to temporarily reopen the government after the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

That's according to five people familiar with the negotiations. They're not authorized to reveal private discussions and are speaking on condition of anonymity.

Trump is due to make an announcement in the Rose Garden shortly.

Three of those five people say the deal would restore money for the shuttered federal agencies for three weeks, while negotiations continue on a longer-term solution.

The deal wouldn't immediately provide a boost in money for Trump's long-sought wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The negotiations are continuing, and officials say a deal won't be locked in until Trump makes an announcement. The shutdown in its 35th day.

—Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long

1:15 p.m.

The FBI director says the partial government shutdown is "mind-boggling, it's short-sighted, and it's unfair."

In a video message to employees posted on the FBI's website, Director Christopher Wray says he's "about as angry as I've been in a long, long time."

He says 100 percent of FBI employees are feeling financial strains from the shutdown.

Most agents in the field are working without pay and other employees are furloughed. He says he knows he can count on FBI agents to help people however they can, but he recognizes they have bills to pay.

Wray says FBI leadership should not be getting involved in political fights. But he says senior FBI officials have been advocating for employees behind the scenes

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1:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is set to speak from the White House on Friday afternoon about the partial government shutdown.

His appearance had been set for 1:30 p.m., but that schedule has been delayed. Trump is still expected to speak soon.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders tweets that Trump will "make remarks" but she's offering no more details about what the president will say.

There's growing speculation that lawmakers and the White House are on the verge of reaching a deal to end the impasse, now in its 35th day.

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11:45 a.m.

Fewer than half the furloughed IRS employees recalled during the shutdown to handle tax returns and taxpayers' questions and send out refunds, without pay, reported for work as of Tuesday, according to congressional and government aides.

About 30 percent of the 26,000 recalled workers have sought permission under their union contract to be absent from work, IRS officials told House committee staff in a briefing Thursday. The IRS employees' union contract allows them to be absent from work if they experience hardship during a shutdown.

The official start of the tax filing season comes Monday. The Trump administration has promised that taxpayers owed refunds will be paid on time, and it reversed the policies of earlier presidents and made the money available to pay hundreds of hundreds of billions in refunds on time. The administration planned to eventually send about 46,000 furloughed IRS employees back to work. That's nearly 60 percent of the IRS workforce.

Of the 26,000 employees recalled, about 12,000 have come to work, the IRS officials said. Around 5,000 have claimed the hardship exception under the union contract and another 9,000 couldn't be reached by IRS managers.

—Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon

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10:45 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting delays in air travel because of a "slight increase in sick leave" at two East Coast air traffic control facilities.

FAA spokesman Gregory Martin says the FAA has augmented staffing, rerouted traffic and increased spacing between planes as needed.

The staffing problems were at air traffic centers in Jacksonville, Florida and a Washington D.C. center that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven states.

Martin says safety is being maintained during a period of "minimal impacts" on travel.

LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey are both experiencing delays in takeoffs.

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10:20 a.m.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the administration wants to negotiate a government shutdown deal but is not saying how much President Donald Trump wants as a "down payment" on his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Sanders spoke to reporters at the White House on Friday, a day after the Senate voted down competing Democratic and Republican plans for ending the partial government shutdown. The shutdown is in its 35th day.

Trump on Thursday suggested he would support a deal with a "down payment" on a wall along the border. Sanders would not detail how much Trump is looking for.

Sanders says the Trump administration has made clear what it wants for border security, adding "we are going to work to get there one way or another."

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called a wall immoral. Other Democrats have said they consider a wall an ineffective, wasteful monument to a Trump campaign promise.

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12:05 a.m.

The Senate has voted down competing Democratic and Republican plans for ending the 35-day partial government shutdown on Thursday. But the setbacks prompted a burst of bipartisan talks aimed at temporarily halting the longest-ever closure of federal agencies and the damage it's inflicting around the country.

In the first serious exchange in weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly called Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to his office to explore solving the stalemate. Senators from both sides floated a plan to reopen agencies for three weeks and pay hundreds of thousands of federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.

At the White House, President Donald Trump told reporters he'd support "a reasonable agreement." He suggested he'd also want a "prorated down payment" for his long-sought border wall with Mexico.

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