By Katherine Gypson
U.S. President Donald Trump signed a three-week spending bill Friday, ending the longest government shutdown in U.S. history but leaving the battle over his proposed border wall unresolved.
“After 36 days of spirited debate and dialogue, I see that Democrats and Republicans are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the American people first,” Trump said earlier in the day in a Rose Garden announcement. “This is an opportunity for all parties to work together for the benefit of this beautiful nation.”
The bill, approved by both houses of Congress earlier in the day, will fund the government through Feb. 15, but it does not include money for the construction of Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. The president said that a bipartisan committee would be formed to evaluate border security, but, contrary to previous claims, he was not asking for a concrete wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
“We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea. We never proposed that,” he said.
The legislative action came shortly after incoming flights to New York’s LaGuardia airport were delayed because of staffing issues, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA also said that departure delays at LaGuardia, as well as Philadelphia and Newark airports, were due to air traffic control staffing shortages.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Friday after Trump’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump agreed to Democratic demands to separate the discussion on reopening the government from border security. He said he hoped Trump had “learned his lesson.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “I see every crisis as a challenge or an opportunity” and was careful not to characterize Trump’s motives during the government shutdown.
Trump’s announcement reversed his position from Thursday, when he said he would accept a deal to at least temporarily reopen the federal government if it contained a “pro-rated down payment” on the U.S.-Mexico border wall he has sought.
“It’s just common sense — walls work,” Trump said Friday, arguing the barrier would keep out criminals, human traffickers and drugs.
In an apparent reference to reports he was considering declaring a national emergency at the border, Trump said he had “a very powerful alternative” but chose not to use it. He said that option was still on the table if Congress could not come to an agreement within the three-week funding period.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped there would be “good-faith negotiations” in the coming weeks to settle differences on border security.
A growing number of lawmakers of both parties had said a compromise was the only way to end the political stalemate and reopen the government.
“It is long overdue for all sides to come together, to engage in constructive debate and compromise to end this standoff,” Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said. “Shutdowns represent the ultimate failure to govern and should never be used as a weapon to achieve an outcome.”
The shutdown furloughed 800,000 government employees, with at least 420,000 forced to continue working without pay, and the remainder sent home, some of whom have been forced to look for temporary work elsewhere to help pay their household bills. All were set to miss their second biweekly paycheck on Friday.
Some government services were curtailed, as about 10 percent of airport security agents ordered to work instead called in sick, some food inspections were cut back, and museums and parks were closed. Federal courts warned they could run out of money by the end of the month.