The partial US government shutdown entered a record 22nd day on Saturday (local time), as President Donald Trump remains steadfast in his demand for $7.8 billion to build a Mexico border wall and Democrats in Congress determined to refuse the funds.
The president issued a series of tweets in an effort to defend his stance and goad Democrats to return to Washington and end what he called “the massive humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.”
“Democrats could solve the Shutdown in 15 minutes!” he said in one tweet, adding in another, “We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their ‘vacations’ and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!”
But most politicians left town on Friday and will not return before Monday, leaving little chance for any solution to the stalemate before then.
The impasse has paralysed Washington. Its impact has been felt increasingly around the country with the president retaliating by refusing to sign off on budgets for swathes of government departments unrelated to the dispute.
As a result, 800,000 federal employees, including FBI agents, air traffic controllers and museum staff did not receive paychecks Friday.
The shutdown became the longest on record at midnight Friday, when it overtook a 21 day stretch in 1995-1996 under president Bill Clinton.
On Friday, however, Mr Trump backed off a series of previous threats to end the deadlock by declaring a national emergency and attempting to secure the funds without congressional approval.
“I’m not going to do it so fast,” he said at a White House meeting. Mr Trump described an emergency declaration as the “easy way out” and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of approving the $7.8 billion he says is needed.
“If they can’t do it… I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right,” he said.
Until Friday, Mr Trump had suggested numerous times that he was getting closer to taking the controversial decision. One powerful Republican ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, tweeted after talks with Trump: “Mr President, Declare a national emergency NOW.” But the president himself acknowledged in the White House meeting that an attempt to claim emergency powers would likely end up in legal battles going all the way to the Supreme Court, as other Republicans and some of his advisers have reportedly cautioned him.