U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday described hundreds of thousands of federal civil servants working without pay during the partial government shutdown as “great patriots,” but there was no movement toward ending the record 31-day closure of a quarter of U.S. government operations.
Trump used Twitter to renew his call for a wall along part of the U.S.-Mexican border.
About 800,000 federal workers have been affected by the shutdown, with more than half ordered to continue working without pay and the rest sent home.
But that number might be changing as workers hurt by missing paychecks seek alternate sources of income. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Monday that 10 percent of airport screeners are missing work, compared to 3.1 percent at the same time last year. TSA workers are among those government employees not being paid during the partial shutdown.
During the weekend, Trump offered a compromise to resolve the shutdown spawned by a dispute with opposition Democratic lawmakers over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a border wall to thwart illegal immigration.
In exchange for wall funding, Trump’s plan calls for three years of protection against deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally when they were children, as well as extensions of protected status for people who fled Latin American and African countries because of violence or natural disasters.
Democrats object to the border wall as ineffective and immoral, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying Trump’s proposal is a “nonstarter.”
They want Trump and Republicans to agree to reopen the government first and then discuss other border security initiatives, while offering $1.3 billion in new border security money, but none specifically for a wall.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to bring Trump’s proposal to a vote in his chamber this week, although he will need some Democratic support to win approval.
Pelosi said she is planning votes this week in the House on adding more immigration judges and money for scanning vehicles and drugs at the country’s ports of entry.
The House has already passed several measures that would reopen the government, but McConnell has refused to bring them up for a vote in the Senate, saying he will not consider any bill that Trump would not support.
Trump assailed Pelosi on Twitter on Sunday.
Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement there is “simply no reason” for the shutdown to continue while the two sides “are engaged in a complex policy discussion.”
She said protecting the immigrants from deportation “is the right thing to do.” But Lowey said Trump “is wrong to hold them hostage over money for a wasteful wall that could be better spent on more effective border security measures. The president’s trade offer — temporary protections for some immigrants in exchange for a border wall boondoggle — is not acceptable.”
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, but major legislation in the chamber almost always requires a 60-vote majority. It is unclear if Trump will be able to persuade at least seven Democrats to vote for his proposal.
Even if the Senate approves Trump’s plan, it would face defeat in the House. A Senate victory for Trump, however, could force new negotiations over his border wall plan and over reopening the government, as furloughed federal workers are set to miss their second paycheck Friday.