US government set for longest shutdown on record as standoff continues

Donald Trump inspects border wall prototypes. The Democrats have refused to give him funding for his wall.

Donald Trump inspects border wall prototypes. The Democrats have refused to give him funding for his wall. Photo: Getty

With funding negotiations for Donald Trump’s border wall at an impasse, the US government this weekend enters the longest shutdown in history.

As the House broke for the weekend on Friday afternoon [Saturday morning AEST], it all but ensured the partial shutdown of the government will stretch to 23 days.

The shutdown has had widespread ripple effects, shuttering dozens of government agencies and imperiling the pay of more than 800,000 government workers.

National parks are growing wild without maintenance while prison guards, airport security employees, Coast Guard members and many other government employees are being forced to show up to work without pay.

Democrats refuse to give in to President Donald Trump’s demands for $US5 billion to fund his border wall, with negotiations between the sides at a stalemate.

The partial shutdown looks certain to become the longest in American history on Saturday, eclipsing a 21-day lapse that began in December 1995.

Mr Trump visited the border on Thursday and declared the United States was being “invaded” by migrants while warning of crime and chaos.

“I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!” he wrote on twitter.

“The Steel Barrier, or Wall, should have been built by previous administrations long ago. They never got it done – I will. Without it, our Country cannot be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Drugs & so much other big trouble can easily pour in.”

Republican and Democrat lawmakers have been scrambling to pass bipartisan measures which would partially reopen the government or allocate some funds to border protection, but the Trump administration refuses to negotiate, causing talks to breakdown.

“No wall, no deal,” Vice President Mike Pence declared in a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. “We’re going to keep standing strong, keep standing firm.”

According to the Washington Post, speculation continues to swirl around whether Mr Trump will declare a national emergency, allowing him to direct the military to begin constructing the wall without congressional support.

Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have refused to give in to Trump’s demands. Image: Getty

No solution is in sight, with both Republicans and Democrats ideologically opposed.

Democratic leaders say they are willing to negotiate and allocate funds for border security, but will not “waste money” on Mr Trump’s demands.

Frustrated by the impasse which is hurting hundreds of thousands of blue collar government employees, several Republicans have also broken ranks, calling on their peers to find a middle ground.

“We’ve wasted the week because our friends can’t sit down and split the difference,” Senator Tom Cole, Republican from Oklahoma, said. “I don’t think anyone looks particularly good in this. . . . This will end another sad week in this chamber.”

The House was still able to pass some measures on Friday, including a bill which will ensure workers are back paid when the shutdown finally ends.

But workers who spoke to both the Washington Post and the New York Times have described being at financial and emotional breaking point.

“It has been terrible,” Andrea Caviedes, a single mother and loan processor at the Agriculture Department told the Times.

“My rent bill is due, my electric bill is due, my water bill is due, and I have medical expenses.”

Some 36,000 prison employees are also being forced to work without pay because they are deemed “essential employees” by the US government.

Guards have described working 16-hour shifts as more coworkers call in sick, refuse to work without pay, or are being forced to pick up side jobs to survive.

Mr Trump took the unprecedented step of using the Oval Office to address the nation — a measure typically reserved for national emergencies — to talk about the need for a border wall.

On Friday, it was reported White House officials are reportedly considering diverting unused funding for natural disaster mitigation to help fund wall construction.

The $US13.9 billion was allocated for projects including flood control on the Texas coastline and parts of Puerto Rico ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

Senators on both sides of the aisle kiboshed the move, with Republican lawmaker Charles Grassley of Iowa calling it a “bad precedent”.

Ebony Bowden contributed reporting from New York City.

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