The US Senate adjourned on Saturday with no deal to end a partial government shutdown, which is now expected to last until at least Thursday. 

President Donald Trump, who has been demanding Congress allocated $5bn for his border wall, and Democrats played the blame game as negotiations got under way earlier in the day. 

Trump warned on Twitter early on Saturday that the shutdown “could be a long stay”, while Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer continued talks to try to overcome the impasse. 

But with the full Senate not scheduled to meet again until Thursday, the shutdown is expected to continue through the Christmas holiday.  

The partial shutdown began early on Saturday after Trump threw a wrench into the works earlier in the week by refusing to agree to a short-term funding deal cut by Democratic and Republican senators because it did not include funds for his border wall.

The US House of Representatives, where Republicans have a majority until Democrats take over on January 3, passed a bill that included the $5bn funding, but it ran aground in the Senate. 

Blame game

Democrats blame Trump for being unwilling to compromise, reminding the president and voters that he said last week he would be “proud” to shut the government down in order to get wall funding.

“President Trump has thrown a temper tantrum and now has us careening toward a ‘Trump shutdown’ over Christmas,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Friday.

Trump took to Twitter to blame the Democrats, saying there was nothing Republicans could do because they needed “Democrats to give us their votes”. 

About three-quarters of federal government programmes are funded through to September 30 next year, but the financing for all others – including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – expired at midnight on Friday.

Federal parks are closed and more than 400,000 federal “essential” employees in those agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be “furloughed”, meaning they are put on temporary leave.

The US National Parks will generally remain open with a skeleton staff, though an alert posted on the website of the National Park Service said some parks are closed completely. Republican governors in at least two states were working to make sure public restrooms get cleaned and visitor centres stay open.

Law enforcement efforts, border patrols, mail delivery and airport operations will keep running.

For the shutdown to end, both the House and the Senate will have to approve any deal negotiated between Trump’s team and Republican and Democratic leaders. 

In a joint statement on Saturday, Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said that if the shutdown continues, the new House Democratic majority will quickly pass legislation to reopen government when it takes office in January.

The shutdown comes at the end of a perilous week for the president, with Defense Secretary James Mattis resigning in protest after Trump’s sudden decision to pull US troops out of Syria. The Syria move was widely criticised, even by senior Republicans in Congress. On Saturday, US media reported that Brett McGurk, the top US envoy to the global anti-ISIL coalition, resigned on Friday due to Trump’s decision. 

The political turmoil added to investors’ fears about the economy, helping fuel continued heavy losses in the stock market on Friday.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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