December 21, 2018 9:02 am
Updated: December 22, 2018 2:17 pm

U.S. government shuts down partially amid a fight over funding Trump’s border wall

WATCH: Trump hopes partial shutdown of U.S. government will not last long


The U.S. government was partially shut down early on Saturday in a fierce dispute over President Donald Trump‘s demands that Congress assign $5 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico.

After failing to strike a budget deal on Friday, congressional leaders and the White House pledged to keep talking through the weekend in search of a deal to end the shutdown ahead of the Christmas holiday.

WATCH: GOP senators stress the need for a secure border on the eve of a U.S. government shutdown

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The impasse came 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 the $5 billion for his border wall.

The U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans have a majority until Democrats take over on Jan. 3, then passed a bill that including the $5 billion, but it ran aground in the Senate and the shutdown began at midnight on Friday.

After it became clear the House bill lacked the votes to pass, Senate leaders huddled with Vice-President Mike Pence and other White House officials to try to figure out a path forward.

READ MORE: Explained: What does a partial shutdown of the U.S. government mean?

They failed and lawmakers in both houses of Congress were sent home.

Trump tried to blame Democrats.

“We’re going to have a shutdown. There’s nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes,” he said in a video posted to his Twitter account two hours before the midnight deadline.

WATCH: Trump says chances of government shutdown ‘probably very good’

Democrats repeatedly reminded Trump — 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 towards a ‘Trump shutdown‘ over Christmas,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Friday.

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

READ MORE: Fear of U.S. government shutdown slams global stocks

Federal parks will close, 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.

WATCH: U.S. government to shut down in fight over Trump’s wall

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

WATCH: GoFundMe to fund Trump’s border wall raises millions of dollars

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.

The shutdown could persist at least until a new Congress convenes on Jan. 3 and Democrats take control of the House from Republicans. That does not necessarily mean, however, that Trump would agree to a compromise.

The shutdown comes at the end of a perilous week for the president, one that saw Defence Secretary James Mattis resign in protest after Trump’s sudden decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

READ MORE: Mattis resignation, troop withdrawal and shutdown threat: A rocky end of the year for Trump

The Syria move was widely criticized, even by senior Republicans in Congress, and continued heavy losses in the stock market were in part fueled by the political turmoil.

While Trump made the promise of building a border wall a fixture of his 2016 election campaign, it is not a top-tier priority for most Americans.

WATCH: Pence breaks Senate tie in favor of moving forward with consideration of House-passed funding bill

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll in late November, only 31 per cent of those surveyed said improved border security should be one of the top three priorities for Congress.

That suggests Trump is taking a political risk by gambling on a shutdown to press his point at a time when Democrats are gearing up for their 2020 presidential primary and looking for issues with which to seize an advantage.

Trump made a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking a key campaign promise in the 2016 election, when he said it would be paid for by Mexico.

WATCH: Schumer says U.S. faces ‘most chaotic week’ over government shutdown, Syria withdrawal

He sees it as a winning issue for his 2020 re-election campaign. Democrats oppose the wall, calling it unnecessary and ineffective.

Republican senators Lamar Alexander and Marco Rubio expressed frustration with what they said was Trump’s shifting position.

© 2018 Thomson Reuters

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