Trump Signs Bill Ending Longest Government Shutdown In US History

January 25, 2019 - 9:38 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) — President Donald Trump has signed a bill that temporarily opens the federal government for three weeks, ending the longest shutdown in U.S. history at 35 days.

The White House says Trump signed the measure after the Senate and House each passed it Friday.

Trump backed down from his demand that Congress provide more border wall money before federal agencies get back to work. But he warns that the government could shut down again "if we don't get a fair deal from Congress.'' The agreement to open the government came as about 800,000 federal employees missed their second consecutive paycheck.

Yielding to mounting pressure and growing disruption, Trump and congressional leaders reached the short-term deal earlier Friday to fund shuttered government departments through Feb. 15 without additional money for his promised wall. 

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said during a speech in the Rose Garden. 

As part of the deal, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers is being formed to review border security recommendations.

"They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first," Trump said. He asserted that "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution."

But he hinted that he was still considering taking unilateral action if efforts to come up with money for his wall fail. "I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn't want to use it at this time," he said.

The president also took the time to address the some 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or working without pay for just over four weeks, saying their resilience was admirable.

"In many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and our border security," he said.

Trump noted that all federal employees would be receiving back pay “almost immediately.”

As for the $5.7 billion he is seeking to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump said he believes “that in working with Democrats and Republicans, we can make a truly great and secure deal for everyone.”

The announcement came on the same day the Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop at LaGuardia Airport due to staffing shortages among air traffic controllers, who have been utilizing sick leaves rather than work without pay.

Trump and the Democrats in Congress had remained at odds over his demand that any compromise include money for his coveted border wall. However, he walked back on that demand when he signed the measure Friday evening.

“I think the president recognized that his own obstinacies was actually hurting the economy, hurting 800,000 people, hurting himself politically— many of his own base were starting to turn on him,” said former Long Island congressman Steve Israel.

He adds: “the notion that he would shut the government down a second time in three weeks from now is, to me, almost unfathomable having now understood, as we all do, the cost of the first shutdown.”

The standoff this time became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the "hour of national turmoil" to help senators do "what is right."

Senators has been talking with increased urgency after Thursday's defeat of competing proposals from Trump and the Democrats. The bipartisan talks provided a glimmer of hope that some agreement could be reached.

"There are discussions on the Senate side," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday morning as she entered the Capitol. "We are in touch with them." Asked about Trump's demands for border security measures as part of a bill temporarily reopening government, Pelosi said, "One step at a time."

Pelosi was referring to a meeting Thursday between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to explore next steps for solving the vitriolic stalemate.

Pressure has been building among both parties to reopen agencies immediately and pay hundreds of thousands of beleaguered federal workers while bargainers hunt for a deal.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)