WASHINGTON — A partial U.S. government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border entered its 22nd day on Saturday, making it the longest shuttering of federal agencies in U.S. history, with no end in sight.
Trump, holed up in the White House with Congress adjourned for the weekend, warned of a much lengthier impasse and blamed the Democrats.
“We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their ‘vacations’ and get back to work,” he tweeted.
Democrats say Trump shut down the government in a “temper tantrum” by refusing to sign bipartisan funding legislation last year that did not include money for his wall.
The closure, which began on Dec. 22, broke the record held by a 1995-96 shutdown under former President Bill Clinton that lasted 21 days.
Federal workers affected missed their first paychecks on Friday, heightening concerns about mounting financial pressures on employees, including air traffic controllers and airport security officials who continue to work without pay.
“For me, this weekend, when I click on the computer with my program to pay bills it’s like ‘How much money do I have in the bank to pay this and pay that?’” said David Boucher, a TSA agent at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. “I might have to make some phone calls to tell them ‘Alright, I don’t have the cash to do that.’ Some of my coworkers are talking about having to use their credit cards, load up their credit cards and borrow money from friends or banks.”
Boucher, who is vice president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, spoke to reporters at the airport Friday alongside U.S. Rep Chris Pappas, who was returning from his first week in Congress.
Pappas described the shutdown as “evidence that our political system is broken” and called on the Senate and President Trump to move on funding bills the House has passed in recent days.
Granite State nonprofit leaders are growing increasingly worried that the shutdown will start to harm the low-income residents they help.
Betsy Andrews Parker, CEO of Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, said Friday that 4,399 Strafford County residents receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Payments (SNAP), sometimes known as food stamps, from the federal government.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday a plan to provide full benefits to SNAP recipients through the month of February. What will happen after that is uncertain.
“We’re seeing people come in who are already stressed and concerned about what will happen in March,” Andrews Parker told U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, during a roundtable forum in Dover.
Roughly 800,000 federal workers did not receive paychecks that would have gone out on Friday. Some have resorted to selling their possessions or posting appeals on online fundraising sites to help pay their bills.
Trump is considering a possible national emergency declaration that would end the shutdown and allow him to obtain his wall funding by circumventing Congress. But on Friday, he said he would not take such a step “right now.”
“Democrats should come back to Washington and work to end the Shutdown, while at the same time ending the horrible humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border. I am in the White House waiting for you!” he tweeted.
Trump also urged his 57.2 million Twitter followers to contact Democratic lawmakers and “Tell them to get it done!”
Democrats, who call a wall an ineffective, outdated answer to a complex problem, have passed several bills in the House of Representatives to reopen the government without funding for Trump’s barrier. But the legislation has been ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Trump originally pledged Mexico would pay for the wall, which he says is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. But Mexico has refused.
A national emergency would allow Trump to divert money from other projects to pay for the wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 campaign. That, in turn, could prompt him to sign bills that restore funding to agencies that have been affected by the shutdown.
Union Leader reporter Todd Feathers and correspondent Kimberley Haas contributed to this report.