Submitting to mounting pressure amid growing disruption, President Donald Trump signed a bill on Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies get back to work.
First the Senate, then the House swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late Friday, Trump signed it into law. The administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a “prompt and orderly manner” and said furloughed employees can return to work.
Standing alone in the Rose Garden, Trump said he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until February 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends the longest shutdown in US history.
Trump’s retreat came in the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.
“This was in no way a concession,” Trump said in a tweet late Friday, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
The shutdown ended as Democratic leaders had insisted it must — reopen the government first, then talk border security.
“The president thought he could crack Democrats, and he didn’t, and I hope it’s a lesson for him,” said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of her members: “Our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated.”
Trump still made the case for a border wall and maintained he might again shut down the government over it. Yet, as negotiations restart, Trump enters them from a weakened position. A strong majority of Americans blamed him for the standoff and rejected his arguments for a border wall, recent polls show.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump said.
The president has said he could declare a national emergency to fund the border wall unilaterally if Congress doesn’t provide the money. Such a move would almost certainly face legal hurdles.
As part of the deal with congressional leaders, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers was being formed to consider border spending as part of the legislative process in the weeks ahead.
“They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first,” Trump said. He asserted that a “barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution.”