Hours after flight delays attributed to a 35 day partial government shutdown began to slow airline travel at major airports on the East Coast, President Donald Trump agreed to sign off on a bill to fund and re-open the government through February 15, ensuring that 800,000 federal workers would get back pay after missing a pair of paychecks, and giving lawmakers extra time to negotiate a spending package on border security.
“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” the President said in the White Hous Rose Garden.
While the President sought to put the best light on the developments, it was a major shift for Mr. Trump, who had repeatedly refused to open the government, and allow for negotiations on border security to go forward – as his decision on Friday basically accepted what Democrats had called for since before Christmas.
The President finished his remarks by saying if there’s no deal by February 15 on a border wall, then he would use his powers to declare a national emergency, and move money around in the federal budget to build a wall.
The announcement came on the 35th day of the partial government shutdown, which began before Christmas when the President rejected a plan which he had previously agreed to – a short term plan to keep the government open until February 8 – sparking a standoff over funding for the President’s plan to build a border wall.
Democrats said the bottom line of the President’s announcement was simple – President Trump had backed down, unable to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in the Congress to give him money for his border wall.
“After he said, “re-open the government,” I think everyone stopped listening,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA).
“This is a recognition by Pres Trump that his forced shutdown is hurting America and is the wrong way to try to change policy,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).
“This is not a major legislative achievement, and the President should never have inflicted pain on America for 35 days, but this is a first step,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).
“It’s about damn time,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
As for Congressional Republicans, some quickly pointed the finger of blame at more conservative GOP lawmakers in the House, who pressed the President to force this shutdown fight.
“It’s long past time to open our government again,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), one of a group of more moderate Republicans who had expressed public disdain for the shutdown strategy.
Just yesterday, the President had demanded a ‘down payment’ on a border wall in any short term funding deal – but that fell flat as well with Democrats.
The only agreement the White House was able to get was that the House and Senate would proceed to negotiations on a bill to fund border security.
“Democrats don’t usually remain this firm, but thanks to Pelosi, they did,” said Democratic strategist Brian Fallon. “And they won.”