Washington: The partial shutdown of the US federal government is set to drag into next week after lawmakers made little progress in resolving a budgetary stalemate over funding for the border wall proposed by President Donald Trump.
A nearly empty Senate convened for just a few minutes on Thursday, only to announce that there would be no action in the upper chamber and that it would renew budget deliberations on January 2, a day before a divided Congress will be sworn in.
The funding dispute has left hundreds of thousands of federal employees either on unpaid leave or not knowing when they will get paid.
Trump has said he will not compromise on his demands for funding to build a border wall between the US and Mexico to tackle illegal immigration and drug trafficking. He has refused to sign a wider spending package, forcing large parts of the government to shut down, CNN reported.
But opposition Democrats — who will take over the House of Representatives in January — and some within Trump’s party, the Republicans, insist they won’t give the President the $5 billion for the wall and have slammed the proposal as an “inefficient, unnecessary and costly” solution to strengthening border security.
The situation has added to concerns over the outlook for the US economy in 2019, leading the stock market on a roller coaster ride in recent days.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said that “no votes were expected” in the lower chamber this week.
The partial shutdown has affected nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments including State, Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, and Justice as well as dozens of agencies. More than 420,000 federal employees deemed essential have to work without pay during the shutdown and roughly 380,000 have been given leave without pay.
Both sides tried to pin blame on the other over the stalemate on Thursday.
In a statement released after the Senate session, the White House accused Democrats of “openly choosing to keep our government closed to protect illegal immigrants rather than the American people”, adding the President will not sign a proposal “that does not first prioritize” the country’s safety and security.
“No end in sight to the President’s government shutdown,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin tweeted. “He’s taken our government hostage over his outrageous demand that would be both wasteful and ineffective.”
Drew Hammill, Deputy Chief of Staff to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, tweeted that Democrats, when taking over the House on January 3, “will act swiftly to end” the shutdown and “will fight for a strategic, robust national security policy, including strong and smart border security”.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 47 percent of Americans hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, the third time for this year, while 33 percent blames Democrats in Congress. Seven percent of Americans blame congressional Republicans.