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US federal govt shutdown becomes longest in history

AFP
Washington
The partial US government shutdown entered a record 22nd day Saturday, as President Donald Trump remains steadfast in his demand for $5.7 billion to build a Mexico border wall and Democrats in Congress determined to refuse the funds.
The impasse has paralyzed Washington, with the president retaliating by refusing to sign off on budgets for swaths of government departments unrelated to the dispute.
As a result 800,000 federal employees -- workers as diverse as FBI agents, air traffic controllers and museum staff -- did not receive paychecks Friday.
The shutdown became the longest on record at midnight Friday (0500 GMT Saturday), when it overtook the 21-day stretch in 1995-1996, under president Bill Clinton.
Trump on Friday however backed off a series of previous threats to end the deadlock by declaring a national emergency and attempting to secure the funds without congressional approval.
“I’m not going to do it so fast,” he said at a White House meeting.
Trump described an emergency declaration as the “easy way out” and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of approving the $5.7 billion.
“If they can’t do it... I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right,” he said.
Until now, Trump had suggested numerous times that he was getting closer to taking the controversial decision.
Only minutes earlier, powerful Republican ally Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted after talks with Trump: “Mr. President, Declare a national emergency NOW.”
But Trump himself acknowledged in the White House meeting that an attempt to claim emergency powers would likely end up in legal battles going all the way to the Supreme Court.
Opponents say that a unilateral presidential move would be constitutional overreach and set a dangerous precedent in similar controversies.
- ‘Under siege’ -The standoff has turned into a test of political ego, particularly for Trump, who came into office boasting of his deal-making powers and making an aggressive border policy the keystone of his nationalist agenda.
Democrats, meanwhile, seem determined at all costs to prevent a president who relishes campaign rally chants of “build the wall!” from getting a win.

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