America could enter freefall in days with government agencies potentially closing “long-term”, but Donald Trump is packing for a Mar-a-Lago trip.
America could enter freefall in days with government agencies potentially closing “long-term”, but Donald Trump is packing for a Mar-a-Lago trip.

US panic over looming shutdown

THE US government is facing partial shutdown within days, with the transportation, security and justice departments staring down possible closure - but US President Donald Trump refuses to budge.

He is demanding increased funding for his border wall, and if it's not agreed by Friday, iconic sites including the Statue of Liberty could close for the holidays and public sector workers will not be paid.

The President is due to leave on Friday to spend 16 days at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida - "not the greatest of optics," suggested NPR.

Mr Trump tweeted: "Anytime you hear a Democrat saying that you can have good Boarder (sic) Security without a Wall, write them off as just another politician following the party line."

He later deleted the tweet and corrected the spelling of "border".

A source familiar with White House planning told Bloomberg Mr Trump "isn't inclined to support a one- or two-week stopgap spending measure that would avert a partial government shutdown over the holidays".

That would mean Congress is staring down the barrel of its third shutdown in two years, with funding not yet agreed for nine of 15 government agencies - including NASA and the Food and Drug Administration.

The departments of state, commerce and agriculture could all face shutdowns, and visitors would not be allowed into federal parks and could face transport delays.

The truly bizarre element is that the White House is reported to be privately comfortable with the spending bill agreed by the Senate, which includes $1.8 billion for border security but not the $7 billion Mr Trump wants for his wall.

The President last week announced in an extraordinarily confrontational Oval Office meeting with democratic leaders that he would be "proud" to shut down the government if Congress refused to approve his funding.

In the explosive televised meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, he said: "If we don't get what we want, one way or the other - whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call - I will shut down the government.

"I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.

"I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it."

Democrats disagree, and say a wall would be a massive waste of money in the face of groups of impoverished migrants attempting to cross from Central America to the US.

Mr Schumer on Sunday told NBC's Meet The Press: "All (Mr Trump) is going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall."

Meanwhile, White House senior advisor Stephen Miller was asked on CBS's Face The Nation if there would be a shutdown. He replied: "If it comes to it, absolutely."

He said the government would do "whatever is necessary to build the border wall".

If the shutdown does happen, federal employees deemed essential would continue to work.

"We're making contingency plans for a long-term shutdown," a Democratic House aide told The Hill.

GOP Congress members are also quietly concerned about Mr Trump's next move.

"Everybody is looking to him for a signal about what he wants to do, and so far it's not clear," Republican Senator John Cornyn said.

"Trump will get the blame, but he won't care," said another GOP politician. "And the base will love him for it."

Democrats do not take the majority in the House of Representatives until next month, but their support is needed to pass any spending legislation.

Once they have the majority, they are likely to be able to pass a funding bill without money for the wall in the House - but the Republican-controlled Senate could block it.

It is an ominous reminder of the deeply divided Congress with which America will enter 2019.

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