Government shutdown breaks record, with no end in sight
The U.S. government shutdown has left 800,000 federal employees without salaries as a result of President Donald Trump's row with Democrats over building a Mexico border wall, as it entered a record 22nd day on Saturday.
The Democrats' refusal to approve 5.7 billion U.S. dollars demanded by Trump for the wall project has paralyzed Washington, with the president retaliating by refusing to sign off on budgets for swaths of government departments unrelated to the dispute.
Trump, holed up in the White House with Congress adjourned for the weekend, warned of a much lengthier impasse and blamed the Democrats.
“We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their ‘vacations' and get back to work,” he tweeted.
The partial shutdown of the government became the longest on record at midnight Friday (0500 GMT Saturday), when it overtook the 21-day stretch in 1995-1996, under President Bill Clinton.
Workers as diverse as FBI agents, air traffic controllers and museum staff did not receive paychecks Friday.
Miami International Airport said it will close one of its terminals early over the next several days due to a possible shortage of security screeners, who have been calling in sick at twice the normal rate.
A union that represents thousands of air traffic controllers sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday, saying it had violated federal wage law by failing to pay workers. It is at least the third lawsuit filed by unions on behalf of unpaid workers.
The Transportation Security Administration, responsible for airport security screening, said its rate of unscheduled absences rose to 5.6 percent on Saturday from 3.3 percent a year ago but that security standards have not been compromised.
Trump on Friday 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.
Trump described an emergency declaration as the "easy way out" and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of approving the 5.7 billion U.S dollars.
"If they can't do it... I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right," he insisted.