US President Donald Trump had a message for Democrats counting on him to relent in the Washington arm wrestle blocking funds to swathes of the government for a record 32 days: “No Cave!”
Mr Trump’s defiant tweet again blamed congressional Democrats for the chaos, insisting he will not lift his shutdown on federal government funding unless they approve his $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) plan for more walls along the US-Mexican border.
“Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security … The Dems know this but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly,” Mr Trump tweeted.
It comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will try to muscle through the 1300-page spending measure, which includes the money to fund Mr Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border, the sticking point in the standoff between Mr Trump and Democrats that has led to a partial government shutdown now in its 32nd day.
Meanwhile, another missed paycheck looms for hundreds of thousands of federal workers and Democrats say they won’t negotiate border funding while the shutdown continues.
Mr Trump triggered a partial government shutdown on December 22 — refusing to sign off on funding everything from FBI salaries to national park services — as a way of pressuring the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives to back the wall project.
But with Democrats refusing to give in and Mr Trump sticking to his hardball tactics, political paralysis in Washington has morphed into growing day-to-day pain across the country as some 800,000 federal employees adjust to life without salaries.
Mr Trump’s main opponent, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi, was adamant on Tuesday that the president is to blame. “#EndTheShutdown now,” she tweeted.
Mrs Pelosi, speaker of the Democrat-led House, argues that border security funding cannot even be discussed before the shutdown ends, accusing Mr Trump of “holding Americans hostage.”
POLITICAL FIGHT HAS REAL CONSEQUENCES
Extending the existing border fences has been at the top of Mr Trump’s domestic agenda since his 2016 campaign.
Democrats accuse his campaign against illegal immigration of ignoring more complex humanitarian issues on the border and stoking xenophobia.
But the disagreement over walls has expanded into a much broader test of political strength in divided Washington, with each side desperate to prevent the other from declaring victory.
Meanwhile, the 800,000 unpaid federal employees and many more contract workers are collateral victims, facing the start of a second month of going unpaid.
Full-time employees will get their back pay eventually, but in the meantime they still have to meet mortgage payments and other monthly costs. For contractors, there isn’t even back pay to look forward to.
“If you’re not going to pay our bills, then send us back to work. That’s all we’re asking,” said Yvette Hicks, 40, a contractor at the Smithsonian museum complex. “People are losing their houses, people are losing their cars and everything.” “Right now, this shutdown is really destroying me and my family,” she said. “I’m the mother and the father in my household, and my children depend on me.”