USA government shutdown breaks record as eyes remain on Trump

President Donald Trump told a White House meeting with state and local officials he was not about to declare a national emergency to fund his controversial border wall project

United States President Donald Trump said he was holding off on declaring a state of emergency to end the partial U.S. government shutdown that dragged into a 23rd day yesterday, as he insisted on US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) to build a Mexico border wall that congressional Democrats oppose.

But Trump scrapped other trips that wouldn't have played well at a time when government workers are furloughed or working without pay. It's unclear whether that damage will last, as past shutdowns haven't left much of a lasting mark on voters' impressions and voters' attention spans have been especially short in the Trump era given the huge amount of big stories that whip through the headlines. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not take up any legislation that does not have Trump's support.

There have been similar protests across the United States. Some staff at the State and Homeland Security departments are also working without compensation.

"More and more government services are affected", Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, said.

The shutdown is now in uncharted territory, having reached a record length of time.

Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, also called for the president to reopen the government before debating the issue of border security.

Correspondents say pressure is building on Mr Trump as the dispute drags on, with opinion polls showing more Americans blame him for the shutdown than they do the Democrats. "Without it, our Country can not be safe", he tweeted earlier this week.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on December 31 the president was open to the idea of giving out a three-year work permit and deportation protections to the DACA population in exchange for wall funding.

The fighting will only ramp up this week, as the shutdown continues to inflict pain on ordinary citizens, not least the government workers who can not pay their bills.

Trump only recently backed away from talk of an emergency declaration, after pressing it for days as a way out of the continuing budget standoff. "Clearly the president's got authority under the law, but he's said he doesn't want it to come to that. I don't want to just delay it", Trump said.

He has told aides and allies that he does not plan to budge on his demand that Congress fund a border wall, two sources familiar with his comments said.

A CNN poll showed that 55 percent of those surveyed believe Trump is responsible, and 32 percent pin the blame on Democrats.

The president hasn't taken his foot off the gas pedal, bashing Democrats for leaving Washington while government employees wait to find out when their paychecks will return. The shutdown is increasingly morphing into something more than a political drama, as the damage on economy becomes ever more evident.

It was a clearer denial of the allegations, after some White House aides were reportedly troubled by his failure to decisively rule out the possibility on Fox News this weekend.

It said small businesses, companies filing initial public offerings (IPOs), manufacturers and brewers awaiting sales approvals, processing of imports, tariff exclusion requests, mortgage approvals, as well as grants, contracts, and payments for goods and services that have already been provided are all delayed.

In the past, government shutdowns have rarely ended with a clear-cut victory, instead leading to some kind of compromise where each side gives something. Among Democrats, just 7 per cent say the situation amounts to a crisis, and 52 per cent say conditions are serious.

Fitch Ratings has warned of a possible downgrading of the U.S. Triple-A credit rating. "And if this is not resolved soon, I predict that that's going to go in the wrong direction and we're going to start seeing longer and longer lines at airports".

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